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Research findings

Fertility in Norway has not fallen as much as expected

Published

Birth patterns are changing and women in Norway are having fewer and fewer children. However, when we look at how many children today's 45-year-old women have had, fertility rates are still relatively high. This is shown in a report from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com
Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com

Birth patterns are changing and women in Norway are having fewer and fewer children. However, when we look at how many children today's 45-year-old women have had, fertility rates are still relatively high. This is shown in a report from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.


The report summarises five sub-projects involving researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Statistics Norway, Institute of Social Research and the University of Oslo. The Centre for Fertility and Health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health co-ordinated the projects.

Changing birth patterns and falling fertility rates

The official statistics show that women are waiting longer to have children, which is one of the reasons why fewer people women are having a third child. Slightly more women are childless.

Total fertility rates are a common measure of fertility in a country and give an annual status of birth patterns.

In 2009, the total fertility rate was 1.98 children per woman. In 2018, the total fertility rate was 1.56 (the latest year where we have complete birth data), a relatively sharp decline over ten years.

“In a period when the age at birth is increasing, the total fertility rate does not give a true picture of the number of children that women in Norway actually have during their lives,” explains Øystein Kravdal, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Professor at the University of Oslo.

Kravdal wrote the summary report with Rannveig Hart.

Have almost two children on average

Instead of total fertility rates, we can look at cohort fertility. This is the number of children a birth cohort of women in Norway has had by the age of 45.

Women who were 45 in 2018 had an average of 1.98 children. The corresponding figure for 2010 was 2.06 and for 2005 it was 2.10.

“In the years to come, there will probably still be a certain reduction in the number of children born to women by the time they are 45-years-old, because the pattern of birth has changed. But it is unlikely that we will ever see a figure as low as 1.56 per woman,” adds Kravdal.

Can the number of children be affected?

In five sub-projects, the researchers tried to identify the causes of the changes in birth pattern and the number of children born and potential interventions to prevent further decline or reverse the trend. They considered finances, health, family values, leave and childcare schemes, and compared developments in Nordic countries.

The decline in fertility over the last decade was equally strong in all the Nordic countries and among all educational groups in each of the countries.

The researchers concluded that changes in family values ​​may have contributed to the trend. Perceptions of the importance of children and family compared to other aspects in life may have changed. However, little is known about this, although there are documented associations between fertility, religion and other value indicators.