After decades of fertility postponement, we investigate recent changes in late parenthood across low‐fertility countries in the light of observations from the past. We use long series of age‐specific fertility rates from the Human Fertility Database (1950–2016) for women, and new data covering the period 1990–2016 for men. In 1950, the contribution of births at age 40 and over to female fertility rates ranged from 2.5 to 9 percent, but then fell sharply until the 1980s. From the 1990s, however, the prevalence of late first births increased rapidly, especially so in countries where it was initially lowest. This has produced a late fertility rebound in the last two decades, occurring much faster for women than for men. Comparisons between recent and past extremely late (age 48+) fertility levels confirm that people are now challenging the natural fertility barriers, particularly for a first child.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.