The Fertility Curve: An under-used trove of demographic information

Date Tuesday 14 February 2023
Time 12pm - 12:50pm
Where K.G.01 and Zoom (
Presenter Marion Birkimsher
Contact Renae Dixon
Contact email
Admission Cost Free

What can a roughly bell-shaped curve tell us about the childbearing habits of a country? The fertility curve is a plot of births by age of women (usually, though could be of men). Even comparing solely developed countries the variations in shape of the curve are huge. Some have a single sharp mode, other countries have wide curves and some even have two peaks. Many have evolved from being left-skewed to right-skewed as women are having children later and later in life. So why is the curve important for demography? Because the TFR (total fertility rate) is defined as the area under the fertility curve and changes in the TFR ultimately determine whether a population will grow or shrink in size. This talk shows how the changing shape of the fertility curve over the past three decades has caused the TFR to fall, rise and, most recently, to fall again.

Marion Burkimsher originates from the UK but has lived in France, on the border with Switzerland, for almost 40 years, and at heart she is a geographer. Her PhD was in glaciology but more recently she did an MSc in demography. Are these topics at all related? Yes, glaciers and population are both dynamic systems with inputs (snow, births) and outputs (meltwater, deaths). Marion likes to crunch numbers and make pretty graphs and make the results accessible to everyone.