Explanations for the Fertility Reversal after 2005 in Japan

Iwasawa, Miho, Ryuichi Kaneko, Kenji Kamata, James Raymo, and Kimiko Tanaka
Working paper no. 2010-11


The goal of this paper is to evaluate explanations for the total fertility rate (TFR) upturn in Japan after 2005. Drawing on recent research on the retreat from lowest-low fertility in European countries, we focus on diminished tempo effects, increasing numbers of foreign mothers, improving economic conditions, and policy efforts to support work-family balance. We also examine the role of familistic culture. Decomposition analyses based on the results of weighted spatial error models indicate that TFR upturn at the national level is partially explained by diminished tempo effects, increases in foreign mothers, and economic improvement. However, change in maternal labor force participation – an indirect measure of policy efforts to improve work-family balance – was not significantly associated with the TFR reversal. Our measure of familistic culture – the proportion of extended family households – was negatively associated with fertility increase for lower-order births. Our results also suggest that over half of the TFR increase is not explained by the factors in our models. Subsequent decline in the number of international marriages and the recent economic downturn may contribute to a slow-down or reversal in the upward trend in TFR, but the impact of these changes should be relatively small.