Fertility rates in the developed world are currently at around 1.6 births per woman, well below the replacement rate of 2.1 (assuming no migration). There are many causes, but work by the United Nations suggests that the decline is primarily due to “the increasing control that individuals – particularly women – are able to exercise over their reproductive lives”.

Fair enough. But if you read social media you might be inclined to look instead at the rising cost of living, particularly housing, as the culprit:

Low birth rate meme Housing is definitely more expensive – but is it causing declining fertility rates? Another low birth rate meme Would affordable housing bring forward family formation, as this meme suggests?

Surely, then, Vienna – with its wealth of affordable public housing – must have one of the highest fertility rates in the developed world? Not so:

“Vienna has a relatively low fertility rate compared with the rest of Europe, as each woman gives birth to on average just 1.41 children, based on the latest figures from 2017. However, in the last five years, fertility rates have risen, from 1.4 children per woman in 2012.

Compared to other regions in Austria the fertility rate in Vienna is relatively low (rank 8 among 9 NUTS2 regions).”

Yes, housing is too expensive. But before blaming it for declining fertility rates amongst the Zoomers/Millennials, it’s important to get the causation right, or policy mistakes will follow.