Stockholm university

Gunnar AnderssonProfessor of Demography

About me

Gunnar Andersson is Professor in Demography and Head of the Stockholm University Demography Unit (SUDA). He coordinates research projects in register-based demographic research, and is involved in research programs with focus on fertility, ageing, migrant trajectories, and residential segregation.

Link to press photos

High and low resolution, 2023. Photo: Rickard Kilström/Stockholms universitet

High and low resolution, 2023. Photo: Elin Sahlin/Stockholm University.

High and low resolution, 2020. Photo: Leila Zoubir/Stockholm University


Research keywords

Demography, fertility, mortality, migration, family formation, register-based research, generations and gender, Nordic countries, Sweden

Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Disentangling the Swedish fertility decline of the 2010s

    2022. Sofi Ohlsson-Wijk, Gunnar Andersson. Demographic Research 47, 345-358



    The downward fertility trend in Western countries during the 2010s is puzzling, not least in the Nordic region.


    In order to better understand its driving forces, we examine whether the decline is driven by differential behavior or compositional changes across sociodemographic population subgroups, for the empirical case of Sweden.


    Event-history techniques are applied to register data of the Swedish-born population to provide an in-depth analysis of the sociodemographic profile of the fertility decline.


    The decline is confined to first births, with no apparent difference between individuals living in different types of municipalities or between those with fully Swedish and non-Swedish backgrounds. The first-birth decline is notable across labor market activity groups, but is somewhat more pronounced among those with weaker labor market positions. However, the shares of men and women who were active in the labor market and who had high earnings increased. The findings are strikingly similar for men and women.


    For the most part the factors driving the Swedish fertility decline do not appear to be structural. Other forces, perhaps global, may underlie the general tendency to increasingly forego or postpone having children. The polarization in childbearing across labor market positions is an area for future research.


    The study provides new insights into the conundrum of Nordic fertility decline during the 2010s.

    Read more about Disentangling the Swedish fertility decline of the 2010s
  • A population-based cohort study of socio-demographic risk factors for COVID-19 deaths in Sweden

    2020. Sven Drefahl (et al.). Nature Communications 11 (1)


    As global deaths from COVID-19 continue to rise, the world's governments, institutions, and agencies are still working toward an understanding of who is most at risk of death. In this study, data on all recorded COVID-19 deaths in Sweden up to May 7, 2020 are linked to high-quality and accurate individual-level background data from administrative registers of the total population. By means of individual-level survival analysis we demonstrate that being male, having less individual income, lower education, not being married all independently predict a higher risk of death from COVID-19 and from all other causes of death. Being an immigrant from a low- or middle-income country predicts higher risk of death from COVID-19 but not for all other causes of death. The main message of this work is that the interaction of the virus causing COVID-19 and its social environment exerts an unequal burden on the most disadvantaged members of society. Better understanding of who is at highest risk of death from COVID-19 is important for public health planning. Here, the authors demonstrate an unequal mortality burden associated with socially disadvantaged groups in Sweden.

    Read more about A population-based cohort study of socio-demographic risk factors for COVID-19 deaths in Sweden
  • Education, Gender, and Cohort Fertility in the Nordic Countries

    2019. Marika Jalovaara (et al.). European Journal of Population 35 (3), 563-586


    Systematic comparisons of fertility developments based on education, gender and country context are rare. Using harmonized register data, we compare cohort total fertility and ultimate childlessness by gender and educational attainment for cohorts born beginning in 1940 in four Nordic countries. Cohort fertility (CTF) initially declined in all four countries, although for cohorts born in the 1950s and later, the CTF remained stable or declined only modestly. Childlessness, which had been increasing, has plateaued in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Women’s negative educational gradient in relation to total fertility has vanished, except in Finland, while men’s positive gradient has persisted. The highest level of men’s childlessness appears among the least educated. In the oldest female cohorts, childlessness was highest among the highly educated, but these patterns have changed over the cohorts as childlessness has increased among the low educated and remained relatively stable among higher educated women. In Denmark, Norway and Sweden, childlessness is now highest among the least educated women. We witness both a new gender similarity and persistent (among men) and new (among women) educational disparities in childbearing outcomes in the Nordic region. Overall, the number of low educated has decreased remarkably over time. These population segments face increasing social and economic disadvantages that are reflected as well in their patterns of family formation.

    Read more about Education, Gender, and Cohort Fertility in the Nordic Countries
  • Two Decades of Same-Sex Marriage in Sweden

    2020. Martin Kolk, Gunnar Andersson. Demography 57 (1), 147-169


    In this study, we provide demographic insight into the still relatively new family form of same-sex marriage. We focus on period trends in same-sex marriage formation and divorce during 1995-2012 in Sweden and the role of childbearing in same-sex unions. The period begins with the introduction of registered partnership for same-sex couples and also covers the introduction of formal same-sex marriage in 2009. We use register data for the complete population of Sweden to contrast patterns in male and female same-sex marriage formation and divorce. We show that female same-sex union formation increased rapidly over the period, while trends for male same-sex unions increased less. The introduction of same-sex marriage legislation in 2009 appears to have had little effect on the pace of formation of same-sex unions. In contrast, legal changes supporting parental rights in same-sex unions may have fueled the formation of female same-sex marriages as well as parenthood in such unions. Further, we show that divorce risks in the marital unions of two women are much higher than in other types of marriages. We find some convergence of divorce risks across union types at the end of our study period: male same-sex unions have the same divorce risk levels as opposite-sex marriages, and the elevated risks of divorce in female same-sex unions appear to have stabilized at somewhat lower levels than those observed in the late 1990s.

    Read more about Two Decades of Same-Sex Marriage in Sweden
  • Life-table representations of family dynamics in the 21st century

    2017. Gunnar Andersson, Elizabeth Thomson, Aija Duntava. Demographic Research 37, 1081-1229


    BACKGROUND A key resource for cross-national comparative research on family dynamics (Andersson and Philipov 2002) is seriously outdated. OBJECTIVE AND METHODS We provide an update of the life-table estimates by Andersson and Philipov (2002) based on data from the Generations and Gender Surveys and other related surveys in 18 countries across Europe and the United States. RESULTS Life-table estimates of family formation of women and men, union dynamics, and children's experience of family disruption and family formation demonstrate the degree of variation in family dynamics across countries. CONCLUSIONS Our findings provide the basis for more in-depth research on the causes and consequences of differences in family dynamics across contexts. CONTRIBUTION The Appendix of the current manuscript is a new resource for comparative research on family dynamics in the early 21st century.

    Read more about Life-table representations of family dynamics in the 21st century
  • Long-Distance Migration and Mortality in Sweden

    2017. Gunnar Andersson, Sven Drefahl. Population, Space and Place 23 (4)


    International migrants often have lower mortality rates than the native populations in their new host countries. Several explanations have been proposed, but in the absence of data covering the entire life courses of migrants both before and after each migration event, it is difficult to assess the validity of different explanations. In the present study, we apply hazard regressions to Swedish register data to study the mortality of long-distance migrants from Northern to Southern Sweden as well as the mortality of return migrants to the North. In this way, we can study a situation that at least partly resembles that of international migration while still having access to data covering the full demographic biographies of all migrants. This allows us to test the relative roles of salmon bias and healthy migrant status in observed mortality rates of long-distance migrants. We find no mortality differentials between residents in northern and southern Sweden, and no evidence of a selection of healthy migrants from the North to the South. In contrast, we provide clear evidence of salmon effects' in terms of elevated mortality of the return migrants to northern Sweden, which are produced when migrants return to their place of origin in relation to subsequent death.

    Read more about Long-Distance Migration and Mortality in Sweden
  • Municipality Attraction and Commuter Mobility in Urban Sweden

    2018. Siv Schéele, Gunnar Andersson. Urban Studies 55 (9), 1875-1903


    At the individual level, commuting can be seen as part of a search process that may lead to adjustments in terms of migration or change of workplace. The behavior of commuters is affected by individual characteristics and factors related to housing, labor and transport markets. It can provide insight into factors related to different municipalities’ levels of attraction. In our study, we provide a longitudinal analysis of individual commuting behavior during a one-year study period: we simultaneously address the dynamics of ending commuting by a migration event, a change of workplace, or both. Our study is situated in the urban region that surrounds the lake Mälaren of Sweden, including its capital Stockholm. We draw on unique register data on the entire commuter population of that region and linked contextual data on the characteristics of the municipalities where the commuters live and work. Migration rates are strongly related to demographic variables, whereas the propensity to change workplace mainly varies with economic variables. We demonstrate that the attraction of a municipality in terms of residence increases with the general accessibility to workplaces and decreases with its level of housing prices. An increased supply of new dwellings in a municipality has a greater impact on the capacity to increase its population than has an increased supply of workplaces.

    Read more about Municipality Attraction and Commuter Mobility in Urban Sweden
  • Depressed fertility among descendants of immigrants in Sweden

    2017. Gunnar Andersson, Lotta Persson, Ognjen Obucina. Demographic Research 36, 1149-1184


    BACKGROUND Previous research shows evidence of an interrelation between family formation and the migration of immigrants in Europe. Less research has been conducted on the fertility and family behavior of the descendants of immigrants. OBJECTIVES Our study provides analyses of the childbearing behavior of daughters of immigrants in Sweden. The context is that of a country with near-replacement-level fertility and social policies oriented towards social equality. METHODS The study is based on register data covering 1998-2012, which allows for highly detailed analyses of the childbearing behavior of 20 country origin groups of second-generation women. By means of event history techniques, we analyze the transition to any first, second, and third births. RESULTS Our analyses show that most groups of descendants of immigrants have lower fertility than those with a full Swedish background. The risk of having a first child is particularly depressed, and the risk of having a second child is also lower for daughters of immigrants than for women with two Swedish-born parents. In contrast, many groups of immigrant-descendant two-child mothers display elevated third-birth risks. CONCLUSIONS Our findings demonstrate the necessity to account for parity-specific differences in fertility when studying the fertility of descendants of migrants.

    Read more about Depressed fertility among descendants of immigrants in Sweden
  • Marriage and divorce of immigrants and descendants of immigrants in Sweden

    2015. Gunnar Andersson, Ognjen Obucina, Kirk Scott. Demographic Research 33, 31-64


    BACKGROUND Immigrants and their second-generation descendants make up more than a quarter of the current Swedish population. Their nuptiality patterns can be viewed as crucial indicators of their integration into Swedish society. OBJECTIVES This study provides data on levels of and patterns in marriage formation, divorce, and re-marriage of people in Sweden, by country of origin. METHODS The study is based on analyses of longitudinal register data that cover all residents born in 1951 and later who ever lived in Sweden during 1983-2007. Kaplan-Meier survivor functions demonstrate levels in nuptiality; multivariate event-history analyses demonstrate relative risks of marriage formation and divorce, by country group of origin. RESULTS We find evidence of variation among immigrant groups and between migrants and Swedish-born people in marriage and divorce patterns. A few groups of migrants have relatively high churning rates in family dynamics, with high levels of marriage formation, divorce, and re-marriage. CONCLUSIONS Many factors relate to the nuptiality behavior of immigrants in Sweden. Differences in family systems seem to have some influence on behavior in the contemporary Swedish context. Other factors relate to the migration process itself and to the selectivity of migrants to Sweden.

    Read more about Marriage and divorce of immigrants and descendants of immigrants in Sweden
  • Welfare State Context, Female Labor-market Attachment and Childbearing in Germany and Denmark

    2014. Gunnar Andersson, Michaela Kreyenfeld, Tatjana Mika. Journal of Population Research 31 (4), 287-316


    This study investigates the role of female labor-market attachment and earnings in childbearing progressions in two very different European contexts. By applying event history techniques to German and Danish register data during 1981-2001, we demonstrate how female earnings relate to first, second and third birth propensities. Our study shows that female earnings are positively associated with first birth fertility in Denmark, while this is not the case in West Germany. We interpret our findings based on the fact that Danish social context and policy encourage women to establish themselves in the labor market before becoming a mother, while the German institutional context during the 1980s and 1990s was not geared towards encouraging maternal employment. For higher order births, the results are less clear-cut. For Denmark we find a slightly positive correlation between female earnings and second birth fertility, while the association is somewhat negative for third order births. In Germany, women tend to exit the labor market when becoming a mother. Non-employed mothers have elevated second and, in particular, third birth rates. For the group of mothers that are employed, we only find a weak association between their earnings and higher order fertility.

    Read more about Welfare State Context, Female Labor-market Attachment and Childbearing in Germany and Denmark
  • Socioeconomic differences in the unemployment and fertility nexus

    2014. Michaela Kreyenfeld, Gunnar Andersson. Advances in Life Course Research 21, 59-73


    Studies that have investigated the role of unemployment in childbearing decisions have often shown no or only barely significant results. We argue that many of these nonfindings may be attributed to a neglect of group-specific differences in behavior. In this study, we examine how the association of unemployment and fertility varies by sociodemographic subgroups using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP) and from Danish population registers. We find that male unemployment is related to a postponement of first and second childbearing in both countries. The role of female unemployment is less clear at these two parities. Both male and female unemployment is positively correlated with third birth risks. More importantly, our results show that there are strong educational gradients in the unemployment and fertility nexus, and that the relationship between unemployment and fertility varies by socioeconomic group. Fertility tends to be lower during periods of unemployment among highly educated women and men, but not among their less educated counterparts.

    Read more about Socioeconomic differences in the unemployment and fertility nexus
  • The demographics of same-sex marriages in Norway and Sweden

    2006. Gunnar Andersson (et al.). Demography 43 (1), 79-98


    The present study provides an investigation into the demographics of same-sex marriages, that is registered partnerships, in Norway and Sweden. We give an overview of the demographic characteristics of the spouses of these partnerships, and study patterns in divorce risks. A comparison with similar dynamics of heterosexual marriages is provided. Our study is based on longitudinal information from the population registers of the two countries, covering all persons in partnerships. Our demographic analyses involve information on the characteristics such as age, sex, geographical background, experience of previous opposite-sex marriage, parenthood, and educational attainment of the partners involved. We find that in many respects the distributions of married populations as to these characteristics differ by the sex composition of couples. Patterns in divorce risks are rather similar in same-sex and opposite-sex marriages, but divorce-risk levels are considerably higher in same-sex partnerships. The divorce risk for female partnerships is practically double that of the risk for male partnerships.

    Read more about The demographics of same-sex marriages in Norway and Sweden
  • Cohort fertility patterns in the Nordic countries

    2009. Gunnar Andersson (et al.). Demographic Research 20 (14), 313-352


    Previous analyses of period fertility suggest that the trends of the Nordic countries are sufficiently similar to speak of a common "Nordic fertility regime". We investigate whether this assumption can be corroborated by comparing cohort fertility patterns in the Nordic countries. We study cumulated and completed fertility of Nordic birth cohorts based on the childbearing histories of women born in 1935 and later derived from the population registers of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. We further explore childbearing behaviour by women’s educational attainment. The results show remarkable similarities in postponement and recuperation between the countries. Median childbearing age is about 2−3 years higher in the 1960−64 cohort than in the 1950−54 cohort, but the younger cohort recuperates the fertility level of the older cohort at ages 30 and above. A similar pattern of recuperation can be observed for highly educated women as compared to women with less education, resulting in small differences in completed fertility across educational groups. Another interesting finding is that of a positive relationship between educational level and the final number of children when women who become mothers at similar ages are compared. Despite some differences in the levels of childlessness, country differences in fertility outcome are generally small. The cohort analyses thus support the notion of a common Nordic fertility regime.

    Read more about Cohort fertility patterns in the Nordic countries
  • Consequences of family policies on childbearing behavior

    2008. Gerda Neyer, Gunnar Andersson. Population and Development Review 34 (4), 699-724


    This article argues for a more careful consideration of theoretical and methodological aspects in studies of the effects of family policies on childbearing behavior. In our approach, we employ elements of comparative welfare-state research, of the sociology of “constructed categories”, and of “the new institutionalism” to demonstrate that investigations into policy effects need to contextualize policies and need to reduce their complexity by focusing on “critical junctures”, “space”, and “usage”. As regards methods we argue that the effects of policies can only be assessed properly if we study their impact on individual behavior, event-history models applied to individual-level data being the state-of-the-art of such an approach. We use selected empirical studies from Sweden to demonstrate that the type of approach that we advocate prevents us from drawing misleading conclusions.

    Read more about Consequences of family policies on childbearing behavior
  • Understanding parental gender preferences in advanced societies

    2007. Gunnar Andersson, Karsten Hank, Andres Vikat. Demographic Research 17 (6), 135-156


    Extending recent research on parental gender preferences in the Nordic countries, this study uses unique register data from Finland and Sweden (1971-1999) that provide us with the opportunity to compare childbearing dynamics and possible underlying sex preferences among native majorities and national minorities, namely Finnish-born immigrants in Sweden and members of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. For Finland, we observe a continuous boy preference among the national majority and the Swedish-speaking minority as reflected in higher third-birth rates of mothers of two girls than of mothers of two boys. Evidence of similar preferences is found for Finnish-born migrants in Sweden, where the native-born population instead appears to have developed a girl preference. In all cases, we also observe clear indications of a preference for having at least one child of each sex. Generally speaking, our findings support an interpretation of parental gender preferences as a longstanding cultural phenomenon, related to country of childhood socialization rather than language group. Moreover, an analysis of regional and educational differentials in child-sex specific fertility behavior in Sweden reveals no evidence which supports various diffusion theories of persistence and change in parents’ sex preferences for children.

    Read more about Understanding parental gender preferences in advanced societies
  • Labour-market status and first-time parenthood

    2005. Gunnar Andersson, Kirk Scott. Population Studies 59 (1), 21-38


    This paper investigates the impact of labour-market attachment on first births of foreign-born women in Sweden. The study uses a longitudinal, register-based dataset consisting of the entire population of immigrants from ten nations and a five-per-cent random sample of natives. The effects of earned income are evident, with increased income levels increasing the probability of becoming a mother for all observed nationalities. The effects of various forms of participation and non-participation in the labour force do not vary greatly between immigrants and the Swedish-born. Among all subgroups, we find a higher propensity to begin childbearing among those who are established in the labour market. Contrary to popular belief, receiving welfare benefits clearly reduces first-birth intensity for immigrants but not for natives. The similarity in patterns across widely different national groups supports the notion that various institutional factors affecting all subgroups are crucial in influencing childbearing behaviour.

    Read more about Labour-market status and first-time parenthood
  • Childbearing after migration

    2004. Gunnar Andersson. International Migration Review 38 (2), 747-775


    The present study provides an investigation of patterns in child¬bearing among foreign-born women in Sweden during the 1960s to 1990s. Event-history techniques are applied to longitudinal population-register data on childbearing and migration of 446.000 foreign-born women who had ever lived in Sweden before the end of 1999. Period trends in parity-specific fertility appear to be quite similar for Swedish- and foreign-born women but important differences exist in levels of childbearing propensities between women stemming from different countries. Most immigrant groups tend to display higher levels of childbearing shortly after immigration. We conclude that migration and family building in many cases are interrelated processes and that it is always important to account for time since migration when fertility of immigrants is studied.

    Read more about Childbearing after migration

Show all publications by Gunnar Andersson at Stockholm University