Expensive housing might block people from having babies Photo by Colin Maynard via Unsplash


Falling birth rates linked to rising house prices in Dutch study


study by a Dutch population expert shows declining birth rates could be connected to higher housing prices.

The survey published on June 26 by Daniël van Wijk, a Dutch demographer who has worked with the Dutch Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI),  seemed to indicate the link. It investigated 40 regions in his country.

He added that it was important to point out it was not necessarily a causal relationship as there were also other factors associated with both birth rates and house prices.

“For instance, birth rates are known to be higher in regions where religious affiliation is higher, while these are also the regions where house prices are, on average, lower,” van Wijk said.

He noted that his study was the first to indicate that rising house prices over the past decade “attributed considerably to the dropping birth rate, particularly in regions where prices went up the most”.

According to the Dutch scientist, that suggested young adults postponed having children, or even decided to not have any at all, because of the situation in the housing market.

He did add that selective relocation by people might also have an influence, meaning that those who wanted children moved to areas where housing was cheaper. He said that provided an alternative explanation for the connection between rising prices and dropping birth rates.

Van Wijk added that housing characteristics other than property prices alone deserved consideration, such as rental costs, types of tenancy and residential areas.

Other elements might also play a role, he said, such as less stable personal relationships, the jobs market, climate concerns among younger people and low wage-growth in recent years.

In 2010, around 184,000 children were born in the Netherlands, in 2022, that number dropped to 168,000, NIDI numbers showed.

In the region of Great Amsterdam, the average number of children born per woman declined from 1.64 in 2010 to 1.23 in 2022, while in South Limburg, in the same period, the number went from 1.53 to 1.34.

Across the country, the number of children per woman has decreased from 1.80 in 2010 to 1.49 in 2022. Preliminary figures for 2023 showed a further fall to 1.43. That is the lowest birth rate since the Second World War, NIDI said.

The Dutch population replacement rate, which is the fertility rate needed to maintain a society’s population size, is currently 2.1 children per woman. Countries with fertility rates below this number may experience an overall older demographic and a decrease in population size over time, the institute said.

Fertility rates are also dropping in other countries including Belgium, France and the US.

In the past, such declines were often a result of economic recession. Yet, since most economies began to slowly recover after the 2008 financial crisis from around 2010, the economic cycle did not provide a satisfactory explanation for the decline in the birth rate in this case, Van Wijk’s study suggested.