Should the Total Fertility Rate Still Be Used in Policy Discussions?: Assessing the Appropriateness of the TFR when Studying the Presumed Need for and Effectiveness of Birth Enhancing Policies in Europe
Wolfgang Lutz, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Tomas Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography
In Europe discussions about fertility policies almost exclusively refer to the total fertility rate (TFR), which may lead to serious mistakes in argumentation about the presumed effects of family-related policies on fertility. We discuss two examples: (1) A main justification for birth-enhancing policies of the governments lies in filling the presumed gap between ideal family size and actual family size with the latter measured by the TFR. When using tempo-adjusted fertility measures or cohort measures this gap shrinks markedly or disappears. (2) Spain is celebrating a reversal of the declining fertility trend because the TFR recently increased from below 1.2 to 1.4. This in fact mostly reflects an end of the tempo effect (the mean age at childbearing stopped increasing) with a surprisingly limited recovery. We discuss a more appropriate approach for policy-relevant monitoring – an indicator based on parity and duration-specific life tables, termed Period Average Parity (PAP).