Demographers Michaela Kreyenfeld, Joshua Goldstein and Aiva Jasilioniene of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and colleagues said in the last decade Europeans age 25 and younger refrained from having children in the face of rising unemployment rates. The drop of children per woman was strongest for first births.
However, whether the postponement of reproduction leads to fewer children is an open question.
"Fertility plans can be revised more easily at younger ages than at ages where the biological limits of fertility are approaching," Kreyenfeld said in a statement. Among those age 40 and older, birth rates of first children didn't change due to rising unemployment, the study said.
The study proved the extent of joblessness in a contemporary European country had an effect on birth rates, Kreyenfeld said.
However, the strength of that connection varied for every nation. For example, the birth rates in southern Europe were most strongly affected by higher unemployment.
The findings were published online in Demographic Research.