In the past few decades, demographic concerns have shifted from rapid population growth fueled by high fertility to concerns of population decline produced by very low, sub-replacement fertility levels. Once considered a problem unique to Europe or developed nations, concerns now center on the global spread of low fertility. Nearly half of the world's population now lives in countries with fertility at or below replacement levels. Further, by the mid-twenty-first century three of four countries now described as developing are projected to reach or slip below replacement fertility. We review the research on low fertility through the predominant frameworks and theories used to explain it. These explanations range from decomposition and proximate determinant frameworks to grand theories on the fundamental causes underlying the pervasiveness and spread of low fertility. We focus on the ability of theory to situate previous and future findings and conclude with directions for furthur research.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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