ISBN: 978-3-03-091611-4

Nico Keilman

University of Oslo

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This book assembles many findings, facts, insights, and opinions related to fertility: its history and future; differences across countries and regions; its role in the demographic transition; preferences for the number of children versus their actual number; biological capacity for parenthood; family planning; marriage, cohabitation, and partnership; links between fertility and education, religion, income, and wealth; the success of fertility policies; evolutionary perspectives; and fertility in the aftermath of disasters and ethno-political conflicts. Skirbekk's main message is that global fertility is low and will remain so, and that low fertility is good for society because of the impact that population numbers have on the environment, public health, living standards, and women's empowerment. His conclusions may be surprising for some, for instance that the world as a whole is becoming more religious (mainly due to the continuing rapid population growth in Africa) and that a catastrophe is likely to have a more negative effect on fertility in richer countries (delayed or fewer births) than in poorer countries, where children provide a basic form of social security. My main problem with this book is that Skirbekk does not fully succeed in achieving his goal, namely to '… introduce readers to scientific research on fertility in all its breadth and complexity …' (p. xiv). The book is easy to read, and the text avoids overly intricate arguments. However, there are many inconsistencies and questionable statements, which probably go unnoticed by the lay person. Hopefully, a carefully edited, revised version of the book will avoid such problems. An index should also be added.