Fertility rates have been continuously declining globally for the past half-century, the article below visualises it.
Fertility rates have declined dramatically over the world in the previous 50 years. In 1952, the average global family had five children; today, it has fewer than three.
This graph uses data from Our World in Data to show how fertility rates have changed (and generally dropped) over the last few decades.
What’s The Difference Between Fertility Rates and Birth Rates?
The birth rate and fertility rate of a country are markedly different, despite the fact that they both relate to population growth:
- Birth Rate: The total number of births in a year per 1,000 individuals.
- Fertility Rate: The total number of births in a year per 1,000 women of reproductive age in a population.
As a result, the fertility rate is a more precise measure, allowing for “more efficient and beneficial planning and resource allocation,” according to Britannica. To maintain a stable population, a given area requires an overall total fertility rate of 2.1, excluding immigration.
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Global Fertility Rates since 1952
Fertility rates have been continuously declining worldwide for the past half-century. Since 1952, the average number of children per woman has been:
What is causing women to have fewer children? There are a number of theories and empirical research studies that can help explain this drop, but most of the literature boils down to three primary issues, according to Dr. Max Roser, the founder of Our World in Data:
- Women’s empowerment, particularly in education and the workforce
- Lower child mortality
- Increased cost to raising children
Higher education in women is linked to lower fertility, according to research. In Iran in the 1950s, for example, women had an average of three years of schooling and raised seven children.
However, by 2010, when Iranian women had completed nine years of schooling on average, the country’s average fertility rate had plummeted to 1.8.
When you look at countries where women’s education is still behind, this theory becomes much more compelling. In 2010, for example, women in Niger had an average of 1.3 years of education and had more than seven children, which was more than double the global average at the time.
The Societal Impact
The world’s population is aging as a result of lower birth rates and longer life expectancies. The global median age has increased from 25 to 33 years since 1950.
An aging population brings a slew of economic concerns, including higher healthcare expenditures and a shrinking global workforce.
The world’s working-age population peaked in 2012, according to a World Bank analysis. It’s been on the decline since then.
With a smaller working population, it is more difficult for those who are employed to support those who are retiring. If countries do not prepare and change their pension systems to accommodate for our aging population, this could lead to an economic downturn.