This Week in Sex: Europe’s Birth Rate, Cohabitating Couples, and an App for Finding Condoms


This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

It’s the Economy, Baby: Birthrates in Europe Have Dropped Since the Economic Crisis Began

Though the link between economics and childbirth is often disputed, a new study makes it clear that fewer babies have been born in some European countries since the start of the financial crisis in 2008. The study, performed by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, found a direct link between the birth rate and the unemployment rate in 28 European countries. As the unemployment rate rose, the birth rate fell.

In Spain, for example, the unemployment rate went from 8.3 percent in 2008 to 11.3 percent in 2011. During that same period, the total fertility rate (the number of births per woman) fell 8 percent. Birth rates also fell in Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, and Latvia. Some countries where birth rates had been on the rise prior to 2008—like the Czech Republic, Poland, and the United Kingdom—have seen this growth slowed.

The lower birth rates have mostly affected younger women, presumably because they have the luxury of time—they can wait for the economy to improve before having children. Specifically, the study found, a 1 percent increase in unemployment rates causes fertility to fall by nearly 0.2 percent among women ages 15 to 19, and 0.1 percent among women ages 20 to 24. There was no impact on birth rates for women over 40.

In addition, Germany and Switzerland—two European countries that fared well in the fiscal crisis—saw no changes in their birth rates over the last few years.

Not All Cohabitating Couples Think He or She’s ‘The One’

Once referred to as “living in sin,” cohabitating before marriage is now a rite of passage for many couples—it’s a stage that they go through after “He’s just a guy I’m seeing,” but before “Oh, that’s my wife.” While most cohabitation relationships do end in marriage, a new study suggests that some couples sign the lease without being certain that the relationship will last forever.

The study was conducted by the RAND Corporation using data from Wave III of ADD Health, which included 15,197 men and women ages 18 to 26. It found that 39 percent of women and 52 percent of men were not “almost certain” that their relationship was permanent. Moreover, 41 percent of men and 26 percent of women who were cohabitating reported that they were not “completely committed” to their partner.

Those of you who are living with a romantic partner and would like to stay in it for the long haul should not despair, however. A report released in April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that cohabitation is becoming more common and lasting longer. Moreover, data from the National Survey of Family Growth indicates that 40 percent of first premarital cohabitations became marriages within three years.

App Helps San Diego Residents Find Condoms

Sacramento County, which is home to California’s capital city, is at risk of becoming the state’s sexually transmitted disease (STD) capital as well. The city now has a chlamydia rate that is 40 percent higher than the rate in the state overall and a gonorrhea rate that is 50 percent higher.

CARES, an AIDS- and STD-prevention program in the area, hopes to curb this epidemic by making condoms easier to find. The organization is setting up free condom dispensers in businesses around the county and is launching the Condom Finder App, which will help residents find the nearest one.

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Follow Martha Kempner on twitter: @MarthaKempner

  • Jonathan Kuperberg

    “Once” referred to as living in sin?
    It still sometimes is in English conservative/evangelical churches- and by youth, not the aged. It’s one thing to run a pro-abortion/pro-homosexual site but why do writers here keep pushing live-in lovers and hook-up inconsequential intercourse?

    • Dez

      Because we live in the modern age and not 1813. Getting knocked up at 14 than having a shotgun wedding is no longer popular you want it to be. People are actually taking the time to know their partner before making a life time commitment.