Stockholm university

Research project Partnership formation and fertility decline in times of global uncertainties

Fewer swedes are having children and fewer couples are getting married. Previous explanations no longer seem to be relevant, so what can explain the declines? In this research project the researches will examine this, using register data and survey data.

Our project is stimulated by unanticipated developments in family dynamics that appear to signal a “critical change” in childbearing and partnership behavior with potentially long-lasting consequences for Swedish society. During the last decade previous relationships between economic cycles and family outcomes seem to have broken down due to newly emerging behavior among childless couples that cannot be explained by conventional factors of family change. The project sets out to find explanations to recent continuous and accelerated declines in childbearing and marriage formation in Sweden that have caused aggregate fertility indicators to reach record-low levels and Swedish couples to embrace seemingly less committed modes of relationship behavior.

Project description

It sets out to evaluate new theoretical explanations for these changes by focusing on: 1) the potential role of emerging socio-demographic differentials in cohabitation, marriage, and fertility behavior, 2) the role of factors related to housing and the housing market, 3) growing gender disparities in educational outcomes and related couple dissimilarities, 4) changes in subjective relationship quality and 5) the role of subjective considerations for fertility realizations in post-pandemic Sweden.

Data and method

Our research is based on multivariate analyses of register data for the entire Swedish population from 2011 onwards that provide longitudinal information on cohabiting couples in terms of their marriages, childbirths, and socioeconomic and housing conditions. The project also includes analyses of survey data on relationship quality, fertility intentions and perceived uncertainties from the Generations and Gender Surveys conducted in 2012 and 2021. These data allow us to study how subjective and objective factors interact in determining family-demographic outcomes.

Societal relevance and utilization

Given the central importance of fertility for population age structure and its role for long-term economic development and welfare state resilience our research will be of keen interest to a broad range of policy makers and scientific disciplines, in Sweden and internationally. 

Plan for project realization

The proposed project is based on collaborations between researchers from the Universities of Stockholm and Umeå. It combines perspectives from sociological and historical demography with policy perspectives on family demographic change.

Project members

Project managers

Gunnar Andersson

Professor of Demography

Department of Sociology
Gunnar Andersson


Sofi Ohlsson Wijk


Department of Sociology
Sofi Ohlsson-Wijk Foto Leila Zoubir Stockholms universitet

Gerda Neyer


Department of Sociology
Gerda Neyer.

Glenn Sandström


Centre for Demographic and Aging Research at Umeå University (CEDAR)
Glenn Sandström