Age-specific fertility in Europe

Reading the graph

The fertility rate (conventionally measured in terms of the female population) is the ratio between number of live births and number of women in a given area at a given time. The effects of a given population’s age structure no longer hold when fertility rates are calculated for specific ages, and this allows for comparing fertility rates in detail at different dates or between countries. The age-specific fertility rate in 2016, shown in the graph, is obtained by dividing the number of children born in that year to a mother aged A years by the total number of women age A living in the year 2016. Ages are given along the graph’s horizontal axis: for example, women who turned 28 in 2016 were born in 1988 (= 2016 - 28).  

These rates taken together represent the age-specific fertility “calendar.”

 In the legend, the figure next to each country is the sum of age-specific rates, known as the total fertility rate. It is expressed as a number of children per woman (over her lifetime). In France it was 1.92 in 2016. It represents the mean number of children that a cohort of women would have had in the entire course of their reproductive lives if the rates found for each year between age 15 and age 50 remained identical year after year.

The sum of age-specific rates represents fertility intensity (mean number of children per woman).

Contrasting situations across countries

In 2000, the fertility of women in France was highest at age 30; the rate was 0.13, meaning that in 2016, 12 children were born for every 100 women aged 30 years.

Age-specific fertility rates vary greatly from one country to another. In the Netherlands, women have children slightly later than in France (the curve is shifted to the right), while in the other countries fertility barely reaches 0.1, even at the age of peak fertility. In the United Kingdom, women aged 17-20 years taken together have more children than in other countries, whereas in Spain and Italy fertility is lower at young ages.


The figures are calculated by the national statistical offices of each country on the basis of population estimates from census data and birth registrations. They are published by the Statistical Office of the European Communities, Eurostat. The Eurostat website features a database containing numerous demographic, economic and social indicators, including fertility rates by age, year and country.
In its journal Population, INED publishes a regular chronicle on « Recent demographic trends in developed countries ».