The lottery of birth
The lottery of birth

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The lottery of birth

4.1.4 A fertility crisis?

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Figure 6

There remains considerable debate about the causes and end points of a demographic transition in which a fall in mortality rates is quickly followed by a fall in birth rates and the second demographic transition in which full control over fertility results in fertility declining below replacement levels. But the big story is that a dramatic change has taken place right around the world – people are choosing to have fewer children.

Low fertility is becoming a feature of both rich and poor countries alike. In Western Europe most countries are below replacement level and a similar feature is emerging in Asia led by Singapore and Korea. Even countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan are predicted to halve their current rate and reach just above replacement levels by 2050 (Harper, 2013).

Although the steady and unrelenting fall in the number of children being born frequently makes the headlines (particularly the unprecedented decline in Europe’s population), this is a varied picture with the most severe decline projected for Eastern Europe, more modest declines in Western Europe and slight increases in Northern Europe (Coleman and Rowthorn, 2013).

If you’re interested, you can explore the Telegraph’s interactive population growth map [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] showing how European countries’ birth rate are much lower than other countries across the world.

Click on each country to find out the rate and the population growth percentage, according to data from World Bank and CIA.

Next, you will look at the ethics and politics of population policies.

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