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For a number of decades, Germany – both western and eastern Germany – has been among the countries with the lowest birth rates worldwide. At today’s fertility rates in Germany, every generation of children is approximately one third smaller than their parents’ generation.

In western Germany, the low fertility situation has dominated since the mid-1970s. It followed a birth high between the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. The birth decline between 1965 and 1975 is partly the result of a considerable change in values and progressive individualization processes.

In the former GDR, the birth rate first also dropped sharply until the mid-1970s. The ensuing rise was mainly the result of family policy measures, which caused people to have children either earlier or later than usual. Following German reunification, a pronounced birth low occurred. The birth rate in Eastern Germany rose continuously since the mid-1990s and has meanwhile exceeded the Western German level again. Since 2012 Western Germany has recorded a new increase of the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) as well. In 2015 the TFR amounted to 1.50 children per woman in Western Germany (without Berlin), while it was 1.52 in Eastern Germany (including Berlin).

However, different fertility patterns are behind the similar average numbers of children in eastern and Western German birth cohorts. The most noticeable differences are a high childlessness rate in the west and a greater number of single-child families in the east. There are also pronounced west-east differences with regard to the percentage of births outside of marriage. In 2015 just under 30% of all Western German, but almost 58% of all Eastern German children were born outside of marriage.

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© Federal Institute for Population Research - 2017