Religion, Religiousness and Fertility in the US and in Europe

Religion, religiosité et fécondité aux Etats-Unis et en Europe
  • Tomas FrejkaEmail author
  • Charles F. Westoff


This article aims to assess the role of religion and religiousness in engendering higher US fertility compared to Europe. Religion is important in the life of one-half of US women, whereas not even for one of six Europeans. By every available measure, American women are more religious than European women. Catholic and Protestant women have notably higher fertility than those not belonging to any denomination in the US and across Europe. In all European regions and in the United States as well as among all denominations the more devout have more children. However, women in Northern and Western Europe who are the least religious have equivalent or even higher fertility than women in the US, and notably higher fertility than those in Southern Europe. This suggests that forces other than religion and religiousness are also important in their impact on childbearing. A multivariate analysis demonstrates that relatively “traditional” socio-economic covariates (age, marital status, residence, education, and income) do not substantially change the positive association of religiousness and fertility. Finally, if Europeans were as religious as Americans one might theoretically expect a small fertility increase for Europe as a whole, but considerably more for Western Europe.


Religion Religiousness Fertility Comparative analysis United States Europe 


Religion, religiosité et fécondité aux Etats-Unis et en Europe. L’objectif de cet article est d’évaluer les rôles de la religion et de la religiosité comme déterminant du taux de fécondité plus élevé aux Etats-Unis qu’en Europe. La religion occupe une place importante dans la vie de la moitie des femmes américaines, tandis qu’elle n’est importante que pour 1 européenne sur 6. Quelque soit l’indicateur utilisé, les américaines sont plus religieuses que les européennes. Les femmes catholiques et protestantes ont une fécondité significativement plus élevée que celles sans affiliation religieuse aux Etats-Unis et en Europe. Dans toutes les régions de l’Europe et aux Etats-Unis, ainsi qu’à travers toutes les pratiques religieuses, les plus croyants ont plus d’enfants. Toutefois, les femmes d’Europe du Nord et de l’Ouest, qui sont les moins religieuses, ont une fécondité équivalente ou supérieure aux femmes américaines, et significativement plus élevée que leurs consœurs d’Europe du Sud. Ce constat suggère que des forces autres que la religion ou la religiosité ont aussi un impact important sur la fécondité. Une analyse multivariée montre que les variables socioéconomiques classiquement considérées (âge, statut marital, lieu de résidence, éducation et revenus) ne changent pas substantiellement l’association positive entre religiosité et fécondité. Au final, si le niveau de religiosité des Européennes était équivalent à celui les Américaines, on pourrait théoriquement attendre une légère augmentation de la fécondité en Europe en général, mais de manière beaucoup plus prononcée en Europe de l’Ouest.

Mots clés

Religion Religiosité Fécondité Analyse comparative Etats-Unis Europe 



The major effort for the whole project is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Population Resource Center. Thanks are further due to the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, for partial financial support for Tomas Frejka. The authors appreciate the many useful comments provided by two anonymous reviewers and by the EJP editor. They also acknowledge the help of Judie Miller and Dawn Koffman of the Office of Population Research, Princeton University for secretarial and computing assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ConsultantSanibelUSA
  2. 2.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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