Globally, women are having half as many children as they had just fifty years ago. Why have birth rates fallen, and how will low fertility affect our shared future? In this talk Vegard Skirbekk presents on the evolution of childbearing across different populations and how fertility is related to (changes in) our reproductive capacity, contraception, education, religion, partnering, policies, economics, assisted reproduction, and catastrophes. He talks on how we must ultimately adapt to a world with fewer children.
Professor Skirbekk is one of the worlds most frequently cited demographers. He seeks to incorporate insights and methods from many different fields. He was the first to show that the relationship between social status and fertility reversed during the course of the demographic transition by conducting a meta-analysis of data spanning seven centuries. He has identified new concomitants of low fertility apparent in later-born cohorts, including the personality trait neuroticism (among men), low physical strength (among men) and hearing impairment (both genders, stronger among women). While many social science researchers have dismissed the importance of religion, his work has shown that religion continues to affect family and fertility outcomes. His ageing research has highlighted the malleability of ageing trajectories and suggests that demographically “older” countries may nevertheless be effectively “younger”. We recently showed that people in their 70s in some countries were just as healthy as people in their 40s in other countries (Lancet Healthy Longevity, 2022). He has lead research studies in Science, PNAS, Demography and Nature and has given keynotes around the world since 2007.