Childlessness in Europe: Contexts, Causes, and Consequences

Part of the series Demographic Research Monographs pp 115-137

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Childlessness in Switzerland and Austria

  • Marion BurkimsherAffiliated withIndependent researcher affiliated with the University of Lausanne Email author 
  • , Kryštof ZemanAffiliated withVienna Institute of Demography, Austrian Academy of Sciences and Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital


Childlessness in the central European Alpine countries of Switzerland and Austria is high by western standards: around a fifth of men and women in these countries have no children towards the end of their reproductive life. This chapter looks at variations in childlessness across six spheres: cohort, education, religion, country of birth, language, and place of residence. For Switzerland, the differentials for both men and women are described; for Austria, only data for women are available, but they tell a parallel story. Although many of the attributes are closely interlinked, some over-arching factors clearly increase the likelihood of childlessness. In the case of education, the effect is the opposite for women and men: highly educated women and less educated men face barriers in having a family. Competing with education for the degree of influence on childlessness is having no religious affiliation; unlike education, this factor is associated with a reduced desire to have a child. At the other end of the spectrum, low levels of childlessness are observed among immigrants from southern Europe and the Muslim sub-population.


Childlessness Cohort fertility Country of origin Educational level Fertility intentions Religious affiliation Spatial differentials