The European Research Council (ERC) rewarded a 14 Million Euro Synergy Grant for a period of six years to BIOSFER. The project brings together Mikko Myrskylä, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR), Siri Eldevik Haberg from Norway and Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen from Denmark with the shared scientific vision of untangling the biologic and social causes of low fertility in modern societies.
High-income countries are experiencing unprecedentedly low and increasingly polarized fertility. Differences between social groups are growing, with a particular increase in childlessness among low-educated men and women.
The BIOSFER project investigates how social, biological and psychological forces produce the emerging fertility patterns in young adults, and to what extent the fertility decline and polarization can be attributed to social and biomedical factors.
Key barriers to answering this question are inadequate data and theoretical frameworks. “We leverage ideas from several disciplines and propose that the existing theories must be complemented with concepts of risk aversion, intergenerational transmission of fecundity, epigenetics and beyond, in order to understand modern fertility,” says Mikko Myrskylä, MPIDR Director and the corresponding principal investigator of the BIOSFER project.
Together with the principal investigators Siri Eldevik Haberg, a physician and Director of the Center for Fertility and Health at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen, Professor of Epidemiology at Aarhus University in Denmark, they will analyze the two richest population-based longitudinal pregnancy and pubertal cohort surveys in the world: The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC).
These surveys include more than 200,000 young adults followed from fetal life onwards. Analyzing these data will allow the scientists to understand how the biological ability to become parents – fecundity – and social processes such as economic uncertainty and partnership dynamics together influence fertility. “We develop a uniquely integrative life-course perspective that is neither social or biomedical, but combines central ideas from both,” says Mikko Myrskylä.
In her letter to the principal investigators, Maria Leptin, President of the ERC writes: “I am confident that this grant will help you to develop your research at the highest possible level and to achieve ground–breaking results in the spirit of the ERC.”