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Childlessness in Europe

New Book Carefully Untangles an Often-Misjudged Demographic Phenomenon

It is tempting, write Michaela Kreyenfeld and Dirk Konietzka, to regard rising childlessness in Europe as a “distinctly new and ‘post-modern’ phenomenon”.

But is it really?

“Is ‘voluntary’ childlessness really a new development?”, they ask. And: “Can we actually draw a line between ‘voluntary’ and ‘involuntary’ childlessness?”, "What drives childlessness in the twenty-first century?"

These are some of the essential questions addressed in Childlessness in Europe: Contexts, Causes and Consequences, published this week by SpringerOpen. The book, which was edited by Dr Kreyenfeld and Dr Konietzka, includes contributions from 30 internationally renowned experts on fertility and demography. Using the newest country-level and cross-border data, the authors dive into historical trends, delineate the effects of education, labour markets, and evolving mores, and evaluate the psychological, social, and economic consequences of childlessness in Europe. The result is a nuanced picture of one of society’s most misinterpreted demographic outcomes.

The volume’s publication follows a 2016 Population Europe webinar in which Dr Kreyenfeld laid out the themes being explored in the book. A post summarising her presentation can be found on Population Europe’s blog. The book itself can be found on the Springer website, and access is free and open.

Michaela Kreyenfeld is Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Recently, she led the “Life Course, Social Policy, and the Family” research group at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research. Dirk Konietzka is  Professor of Sociology at TU Braunschweig.