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Web magazine, 15 May 2008 15:00

Fewer very large families

The number of families with four or more children living at home has dropped dramatically over the past decade. The decline was more substantial among families with a non-western background than among native Dutch families. Orthodox Protestantism rather than foreign background plays the most important part in the regional distribution of very large families.

Families with more than 4, 6 and 8 children

Families with more than 4, 6 and 8 children

Decline most substantial among the largest families

Over the past decade, the number of families with three children has hardly changed, whereas the number of families with four or more children has dropped, predominantly the number of very large families. The number of families with four children, for example, dropped by 8 percent, whereas the number of families with eight children dropped by no less than 41 percent. On 1 January last year 1,384 families in the Netherlands had eight or more children, as opposed to 2,290 a decade ago.

Families with 8 or more children by ethnic background

Families with 8 or more children by ethnic background

Size foreign-background families dropping rapidly

The proportion of very large families has declined across all ethnic background groups. The decline was much more substantial among people with a non-western background than among native Dutch families. Ten years ago, the proportion of very large families (eight or more children) was five times as high among non-western families as among native Dutch, but the difference has gradually faded. The most striking trend is the decline of very large Moroccan families. Ten years ago, Moroccan and – to a lesser degree – Turkish women accounted for relatively very high fertility rates.

Most large families have foreign background

Currently, families with eight or more children are also rare among Moroccans. This type of families is even less common among Turks, Surinamese and Antilleans than in the Native Dutch population. A vast majority of large families indeed has a native Dutch background. In 2007, over 80 percent of families with eight or more children had a native Dutch background.

Proportion of families with 8 or more children, 2007 (Index; Netherlands = 100)

Proportion of families with 8 or more children, 2007

Relatively many large families in Dutch Bible Belt

Very large families are frequently found in areas where Orthodox Protestantism prevails. In the predominantly Roman Catholic parts of the Netherlands, on the other hand, families have been smaller than average over the past decades. The presence of many non-western families does not affect the regional distribution of large families very much.

Joop Garssen and Hennie Roovers

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