Go forth and multiply a lot less

Now imagine you are a bit richer. Increased wealth, usually translates into different incentives. Macroeconomic research bears out this picture. Fertility starts to drop at an annual income per person of $1,000-2,000 and falls until it hits the replacement level at an income per head of $4,000-10,000 a year (see chart 2). This roughly tracks the passage from poverty to middle-income status and from an agrarian society to a modern one.

In light of re-reading some journal articles on Sanjay Gandhi’s infamous sterilization program during the 1970s, this relatively recent article from the Economist came to mind. While some in India still view Sanjay’s efforts towards “family planning” as “visionary” others have blamed him for turning public sentiment against the idea.

From the Economist 29OCT09:

Sometime in the next few years (if it hasn’t happened already) the world will reach a milestone: half of humanity will be having only enough children to replace itself. That is, the fertility rate of half the world will be 2.1 or below. This is the “replacement level of fertility”, the magic number that causes a country’s population to slow down and eventually to stabilise. According to the United Nations population division, 2.9 billion people out of a total of 6.5 billion were living in countries at or below this point in 2000-05. The number will rise to 3.4 billion out of 7 billion in the early 2010s and to over 50% in the middle of the next decade. The countries include not only Russia and Japan but Brazil, Indonesia, China and even south India


The link between living standards and fertility exists within countries, too. India’s poorest state, Bihar, has a fertility rate of 4; richer Tamil Nadu and Kerala have rates below 2. Shanghai has had a fertility rate of less than 1.7 since 1975; in Guizhou, China’s poorest province, the rate is 2.2. So strong is the link between wealth and fertility that the few countries where fertility is not falling are those torn apart by war, such as Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where living standards have not risen.



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