According to the new quarterly population figures, 13,700 children were born in Norway in the first three months of 2021. That is almost 700 more live births than was observed in the first quarter of 2020. The number of births in the first quarter is the highest observed since 2017. The increase started in December last year, and continued through January, February and March.

– The increase in births occurs approximately nine months after the first Covid restrictions were introduced in Norway on the 12th of March 2020, says Ane Margrete Tømmerås in Statistics Norway.

– We do not know whether this is a short-term change in fertility, or if this increase in births will continue. The large cohorts born around 1990 are reaching an age where it is more common to have children, which could also partly explain the observed increase, says Tømmerås.

Figure 1. Number of births 1. quarter 2011-2021

Largest increase occurred among those aged 30-34

While an increase in births was observed for women in all ages between 30 and 49, women aged 30-34 had the largest increase. Compared to the same period last year, women in this age group had 1000 more births. There is also an increase in births for women aged 35 and above.

For women under 30 years of age, the number of births continued to decline. The decline was particularly large for women aged 20-24, which fits with a longer-run pattern of lower birth rates among the youngest age groups in Norway.

– For some years, we have observed a tendency of fertility postponement among the large cohorts born around 1990. This trend towards having children at older ages may be part of the explanation for declining fertility in the younger age groups. With the recent increase in births perhaps indicating a ‘catch-up’ in fertility driven by the end of postponement. We might speculate that the Covid-19 pandemic has sped up the process of catch-up, but we cannot say that with any certainty, says Tømmerås.

The share of firstborn children has not changed this quarter and the numbers show no changes in the extent to which the children born were the mothers’ first, second or third (or more) child.

Figure 2. Number of births by mothers age 1. quarter 2021

Increase in the total fertility rate if the increase in births continues

If we look at the birth rates by adjusting for how many women are in each age group, the development is slightly different. The number of women in different age groups changes over time, and this must be adjusted for to see if there is an actual increase in fertility in a certain age group. The birth rates for all age groups make up the total fertility rate (TFR), which in 2020 was 1,48 children per woman (link).

The decrease in the birth rate for women aged 25 or below is smaller than was observed last year. This is because even though the number of births went down, there are also fewer women in the age group this year. We do observe an increase in the birth rate for women in the age groups 25-29 and 30-34. There is also a small increase in the birth rate for women aged 35 and above.

– If the birth rates for the rest of 2021 continue with the same development as observed in the first three months, the total fertility rate will increase for the first time since 2009. Still, as the Covid-19 pandemic persists, it is difficult to confidently predict how fertility patterns and trends will develop over the coming months and years, says Tømmerås.

Figure 3. Age-specific fertility rates 1. quarter 2015-2021