While urbanization has historically been linked to lower birth rates, research is dispelling the myth of cities as “fertility traps.” A recent study from Allianz found that the birth rate in 41 major European and US cities is actually higher than the national average of the respective country.
As cities experienced unprecedented growth in recent decades, global fertility rates have decreased dramatically. Some demographers believe that the conditions that draw people to cities, such as increased access to education, better employment for women and family planning options, could also be linked to this decline.
Yet recent evidence has indicated that cities in developed countries are experiencing a “mini baby boom.” How widespread this is was shown in recent research conducted by the International Pensions unit of Allianz, one of the world’s largest insurers. It found that the birth rate in 41 major European and US cities is on average actually 7% higher than the national average of the country in which the city is located.
In this study of fertility in cities in Europe and the US, birth rates were calculated and compared with national birthrates.* The list studied includes European capitals and cities with more than 1 million inhabitants. Researchers found that the higher fertility pattern transcends borders: Lisbon (+50%), Bratislava (+31%) and Birmingham I the UK (+17%) lead the list of cities studied in terms of excess birthrate. In the US, the adjusted birth rate for NYC was +5% compared with the national average; in Chicago it was +3%, and in Dallas, +17%.
“Surprisingly, cities with some of the highest living and housing expenses also show an excess birthrate compared to the national average,” said Brigitte Miksa, Head of International Pensions. “These include New York City, Munich (+5%), London (+8%), Stockholm (+13%), Copenhagen (+14%) and Oslo (+16%).
Drivers for the fertility increase in some cities include better opportunities for jobs that offer work-life balance, more comprehensive infrastructure with easier access to childcare, shifting attitudes towards parenthood among affluent couples, and increases in immigration.
However, the Allianz researchers also caution that while a city baby boom is a demographic plus, it isn’t a panacea for the issues faced by aging societies. Of the cities surveyed, only Dallas and Birmingham have fertility rates of 2.1 children per women, the number considered necessary for one generation to replace itself without immigration. Five other cities – Brussels, Stockholm, Oslo, London and New York – have fertility levels just under the replacement rate. What this means, according to Brigitte Miksa, is that “countries will still need to find other ways to sustain their populations and fund their public services and pensions systems.”