Local-Scale Fertility Variations in a Low-Fertility Country: Evidence from Spain (2002–2017)

Abstract

Since the early 1990s, persistently low fertility in Mediterranean countries has attracted the interest of empirical research aimed at identifying factors associated with demographic change in what were traditionally high-fertility contexts. Most of these studies have been carried out at the national scale, while spatial analyses of sub-national patterns remain mostly absent. The present study aims to fill this gap, investigating the spatio-temporal changes in local fertility in Spanish municipalities over a 16-year period that covers consecutive waves of economic expansion (2002–2009) and recession (2010–2017). The analytical framework is grounded on descriptive statistics, spatial statistics (that is, Global Moran’s I and Local Indicators of Spatial Association) and non-parametric inference testing the pair-wise correlations between fertility levels and contextual variables (including population density, topography, accessibility and distance from central locations). Results of this study reveal a fertility decline in most areas of the country—especially in depopulated districts. The highest fertility is observed in Southern Spain, along the Mediterranean coast, and around the main cities. With recession, spatial heterogeneity emerges as the main trend characterizing regional fertility—a finding in line with research from other Mediterranean countries. Local fertility rates were less spatially clustered in the recession than in the expansion period, with a progressive shrinkage of high-fertility districts. A persistent decline in local fertility may be considered an early-warning indicator of depopulation in Spain’s rural districts and can be used to delineate demographically fragile areas.

Résumé

Depuis le début des années 1990, une fécondité toujours faible dans les pays méditerranéens a suscité l’intérêt des chercheurs visant à identifier les facteurs associés au changement démographique dans des contextes traditionnellement à forte fécondité. La plupart de ces études ont été menées à l’échelle nationale et des analyses explicitement spatiales étaient partielles ou absentes. La présente étude vise à combler ce manque de connaissances en examinant l’évolution spatio-temporelle de la fécondité dans les municipalités espagnoles sur une période de seize ans qui couvre une phase d’expansion economique (2002–2009) et de récession (2010–2017). Le cadre analytique est fondé sur des statistiques descriptives, le I de Global Moran, les indicateurs locaux de l’association spatiale (LISA) et l’inférence non paramétrique testant les corrélations par paires entre les niveaux de fécondité et les variables contextuelles (y compris la densité de population). Les résultats de cette étude montrent une tendance à la baisse de la fécondité dans la plupart des régions du pays - en particulier dans les districts dépeuplés. La plus forte fécondité est observée dans le sud de l’Espagne, le long de la côte méditerranéenne et autour des principales villes. Avec la récession, l’hétérogénéité spatiale apparaît comme la principale tendance caractérisant la fécondité régionale de l’Espagne - une constatation conforme aux recherches dans d’autres pays méditerranéens. Les taux de fécondité locaux étaient moins homogènes pendant la récession que pendant la période d’expansion, quand il y eu une réduction progressive des districts à forte fécondité. Une baisse persistante de la fécondité locale peut être considérée comme un indicateur d’alerte précoce du dépeuplement dans les districts ruraux et peut être utilisée pour délimiter les zones démographiquement fragiles.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Global and local spatial autocorrelation coefficients provide a comprehensive analysis of the spatial behaviour of a given variable at various territorial scales, moving from the whole study area (global indexes) to the most elementary spatial unit (local indexes). Global measures generate a single metric of overall spatial autocorrelation, whereas local measures draw on a subset of data and are useful for identifying clusters and specific types of clusters (identifying clusters of high values of fertility in adjacent municipalities or “hot spots”, as well as clusters of low values of fertility in adjacent municipalities or “cold spots”). Significant and non-significant coefficients respectively indicate the level of spatial clustering and randomness. Use of multiple bandwidths in global analysis identifies specific spatial patterns and regularities at varying ranges, from small-range to large-range similarities in demographic behaviours.

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Appendix

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Fig. 4
figure4

Map of Spain with delimitation of regional authorities (Comunidades Autonomas) and provinces

Table 2 Total Fertility Rate in Spanish regions by time period

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Burillo, P., Salvati, L., Matthews, S.A. et al. Local-Scale Fertility Variations in a Low-Fertility Country: Evidence from Spain (2002–2017). Can. Stud. Popul. 47, 279–295 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42650-020-00036-6

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Keywords

  • Total fertility rate
  • Urban-rural gradient
  • Accessibility
  • Depopulation
  • Municipality
  • Spain