Population and fertility reversals in a high-immigration, low-fertility setting: the case of Vienna

Tomas Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography
Kryštof Zeman, Vienna Institute of Demography
Maria E. Winkler-Dworak, Vienna Institute of Demography
Richard Gisser, Vienna Institute of Demography

Throughout much of the 20th century, Vienna recorded fertility rates deep below fertility in other parts of Austria, repeatedly falling to extreme low levels. In a closed population, this would lead to accelerated depopulation and a rapid ‘greying’ of the population, a development observed until the mid-1970s. However, persistently high immigration rates from both Austria and abroad together with higher fertility among foreign-born women have brought about several important reversals in population trends in the city of Vienna. A long-lasting population decline came to an end and vigorous population increase set in. Also the number of births has increased considerably since the 1970s, contributing to another reversal from natural population decline to natural population increase which has surpassed that for the whole Austria after the year 2000. Fertility rates recovered slightly from their lows in the 1970s as well as extreme low levels recorded in the early 1930s and around 1950. High immigration—concentrated especially into younger ages—and more frequent childbearing among foreign-born migrants have also contributed to the decline in the share of elderly in the 1970s-1990s, contrasting with its rise elsewhere in Austria. We analyse and discuss these developments and show that high immigration combined with higher fertility among migrants can 1) strongly alter population structure and trends over long periods of time, 2) stimulate substantial population increase where closed population would fall rapidly, and 3) slow down the pace of population ageing. In addition, extreme low fertility levels may be reversed even when they had persisted for many decades. These findings are likely to pertain to many other regions in richer parts of Europe. They suggest that in attractive regions migration rather than fertility often becomes the main driver of population trends. Worries about the negative consequences of low fertility are therefore often misplaced or exaggerated.

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Presented in Session 69: Fertility transition: the past and presence