Late Motherhood in Low-Fertility Countries: Reproductive Intentions, Trends and Consequences

  • Tomáš SobotkaEmail author
  • Éva Beaujouan


Delayed parenthood is a central feature of the massive transformation of family and reproduction in rich countries. We analyse the shift of motherhood towards later reproductive ages during the last four decades and review its consequences for children and their mothers in low-fertility countries in Europe, North America, Oceania and East Asia. First we analyse the trends in birth rates at advanced reproductive ages (35+) and document the rapid rise in first and second birth rates at these ages. We show that a relatively high share of childless women and of women with one child aged 35-44 still plan to have a(nother) child in the future. Subsequently, we discuss the limited success rates of assisted reproduction at advanced reproductive ages. Next we outline the key drivers of delayed parenthood and its demographic consequences. Finally, we briefly review the consequences of delayed motherhood for pregnancy outcomes, maternal and child health and highlight selected positive consequences of later parenthood for mothers and children. We argue that economic and social rationales for late reproduction clash with the biological and health rationales for having children earlier in life.



The research by T. Sobotka was funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant agreement no 284238 (EURREP project). E. Beaujouan’s contribution was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), project FWF P28071-G22 (“Running Against the Clock? Realising Family Plans Over the Life-course”). The earlier more extensive draft of this chapter is available as a working paper [30].


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)Vienna Institute of Demography (Austrian Academy of Sciences)ViennaAustria

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