August 4, 2011

Population Change in Europe

Twenty European countries had population gains in 2010, while seven countries had population declines, according to a report released by Eurostat, the statistical agency of the European Union. The total population grew by 1.4 million, to 502.5 million as of January 2011, according to provisional data. The countries with declines, mainly in Eastern Europe, included Bulgaria, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Portugal and Romania.

Most of the European Union’s population growth (900,000, or 62%) was due to net migration; the remainder (500,000, or 38%) came from natural increase, which is the number of births minus the number of deaths.

Overall, as the report points out, migration to European Union nations has accounted for a growing share of population increase since the mid-1980s, both because migration has risen and births have declined. The number of European Union births decreased in 2010 for the second year in a row. In general, births decrease during economic hard times, and, according to a Pew Research Center report, a decline in the U.S. birth rate has been linked to the recession.

Fertility rates already are low in some European nations, and the number of deaths is expected to rise as the baby boom generation ages. Therefore, “negative natural change (more deaths than births) cannot be excluded in the future,” the report notes. In the United States, West Virginia was the only state to have more deaths than births from 2000-2009, according to a report on natural decrease from the Carsey Institute; its analysis also indicates that one in four U.S. counties had more deaths than births last year.