Volume 49 - Article 32 | Pages 849–864  

The COVID-19 pandemic and fertility responses: TFR simulation analysis using parity progressions in South Korea

By Seulki Choi, Da eun Kwan, Bongoh Kye


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a notable impact on marriage and fertility intentions. Existing research has found that the impact of the pandemic on childbearing intentions and outcomes has varied across countries. Yet it remains unclear what the post-COVID-19 fertility rate would be if the changes in childbearing intentions observed during the pandemic translated into corresponding behavioral changes.

Objective: This study centered on the experience of South Korea, where an unprecedented decline in the total fertility rate (TFR) was recorded. We aim to examine changes in individuals’ marriage and childbearing intentions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the implications of these changes for fertility rates.

Methods: We used a combination of population census, vital statistics, and online survey data to examine shifts in marriage and fertility intentions among women of childbearing age during the COVID-19 pandemic. Simulation analysis was employed to explore various scenarios of intention changes regarding marriage and childbearing by parity. It was assumed that childbearing followed a sequential progression: from never married to high parities.

Results: We found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Korean women experienced a downward shift in their marriage and childbearing intentions on average. If these intention changes translate into corresponding behaviors, the TFR is estimated to fall to 0.754, using the TFR value from the base year of 2019.

Conclusions: The results suggest that the TFR in South Korea is likely to decrease further if the intention changes translate into corresponding behavioral changes.

Contribution: This study advances the existing literature by taking a life course approach and integrating survey results into a simulation to examine the pandemic-related effects on fertility. It provides a better understanding of shifts in individuals’ reproductive decisions during the crisis and the potential consequences on marriage and fertility patterns thereafter.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Are parents and children coresiding less than before? An analysis of intergenerational coresidence in South Korea, 1980–2015
Volume 45 - Article 1

Education, Elderly Health, and Differential Population Aging in South Korea: A Demographic Approach
Volume 30 - Article 26

Intergenerational transmission of women’s educational attainment in South Korea: An application of a multi-group population projection model
Volume 24 - Article 3

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Measuring short-term mobility patterns in North America using Facebook advertising data, with an application to adjusting COVID-19 mortality rates
Volume 50 - Article 10    | Keywords: COVID-19, data collection, Facebook, mortality, North America, short-term mobility

Immigrant mortality advantage in the United States during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic
Volume 50 - Article 7    | Keywords: COVID-19, immigrants, mortality

Leaving and returning to the parental home during COVID times in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom
Volume 50 - Article 3    | Keywords: behavior, COVID-19, intentions, leaving the parental home, motivations

Partnership satisfaction in Czechia during the COVID-19 pandemic
Volume 49 - Article 24    | Keywords: COVID-19, family, pandemic, partnership, separation

Partial fertility recuperation in Spain two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic
Volume 49 - Article 17    | Keywords: COVID-19, fertility, recuperation, Spain