What We Know and What We Need to Know about the Baby Boom

Jan Van Bavel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
David Reher, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

This study of the baby boom is based on a sample of 18 different European and non-European countries classified according to the timing and intensity of their baby boom and to the role played by nuptiality, fertility and age structure in the increasing birth rate. The baby boom is found to be especially strong in non-European countries, fairly strong in some countries and quite weak in others. In many countries the boom started well before the aftermath of World War II, in others it did not start before the 1950s and there were often short-lived post war booms in many. Everywhere it posed significant challenges to political and social systems. Standard explanations for the baby boom are examined and many are found to be wanting. The authors argue that it is useful to understand the boom in terms of the relatively low levels of interwar fertility reached in most countries.

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Presented in Session 25: Family Formation in Comparative-Historical Perspective