World Total Fertility Rate Declines

Aurora in egg

Total Fertility Rate

In the last few decades there have been significant decreases in world fertility rates. The replacement fertility rate is roughly 2.1 births per woman for most industrialized countries but higher for many less developed nations. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime.

The chart below shows the World TFR in columns of 5 years, starting in 1950. The TFR for 2009 and 2010 are estimated. Take a look at the TFR chart below and the other statistics and join me in a discussion of what some of the trends and numbers may mean. For more insight into population trends try playing with the population database provided by the United Nations. Since writing this post the database has been updated and I now link to the latest available information.

World Total Fertility Rate 1950 to 2010

World Total Fertility Rate 1950 to 2010

Crude Birth and Death Rates

I will show you next a chart with world birth and death rates plotted together. This may prove useful to the discussion later. The Crude Birth Rate is simply the number of births over a given period divided by the person-years lived by the population over that period. It is expressed as number of births per 1,000 population. Likewise the Crude Death Rate is the number of deaths over a given period divided by the person-years lived by the population over that period. It is expressed as number of deaths per 1,000 population.

World crude birth and death rates 1950-2010

World crude birth and death rates 1950-2010

A Russian Demographic Example

This chart shows the Russian Federation’s demographic crisis quite plainly. All European countries have a TFR less than 2.1 and Russia’s at 1.37 is not the lowest. What is interesting about Russia is it has a sizable population and so their 12.3 million people loss since 1992 (offset by 5.7 million immigrants) is still large, even for a nation of 142 million. Today Russians are diminishing at the rate of over 700,000 a year. One wonders what the effect would be on any nation that suffers sustained population loss.

Russian crude birth and death rates 1950-2010

Russian crude birth and death rates 1950-2010

Decades Long Fertility Decrease

In my chart of world TFR there is plainly a decrease in every 5 year span since the early sixties. The rate of decline seems to be lessening in the last fifteen years but the trend is definitely downwards. The United Nations projects that by 2050 the World TFR will stand at 2.02. This is below replacement level for developed nations and well below a third world country.

Why Population Increases As Fertility Declines

The world birth/death rate chart shows births well above deaths, hence world population is increasing even as TFR is decreasing. Consider that between 1950 and 1955 the death rate was 52% of the birth rate. By 2005 to 2010 the death rate had dropped to 42% of the birth rate. However, even as the death rate drops so too does the birth rate. So why is the world population increasing even as the fertility rate is decreasing? Well, on average, each generation is having fewer children than the previous generation. That is explained by the fertility decrease.

To still have more births than deaths amid a fertility decline is easily accounted for in the decades long delay in the deaths of the parents and grandparents of newly born children. Hence even as the birth rate falls the parents who produced offspring are still alive in most cases and so the death rate is lower. This is called Demographic Momentum. After a number of decades the parents and grandparents die and their children now produce less babies as forecast by the TFR. Population decreases will now begin to appear as in the case of Russia when deaths outnumber births. It is then that the population drops will be in the millions.

Adverse Effects

One adverse effect of a declining population for the young is increased social and economic pressure. They will have to support an infrastructure with costly, intensive care for the oldest among their population. Labor shortages can occur which may cripple labor-intensive sectors of the economy. The decade long economic stagnation of Japan and Germany is linked to demographic problems. Russia has begun a 10-year program to stop the large decline in their population by offering financial incentives and subsidies to encourage women to have children. Australia, France, Italy, Poland, Japan, and Singapore offer thousands of dollars for each baby and regular payments and care for the child.

It is evident that a number of countries see declining birth rates as a serious issue — enough to offer incentives for reproduction. This is not going away anytime soon, especially for nations that have difficulty attracting immigrants. The United States would have a declining population if not for immigration. If the U.S. birth and death rates ever become like Russia’s you will hear more than you ever wanted to know about the total fertility rate.

A Third Way

Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation writes briefly of A Third Way. He states that “a planet that grays indefinitely is clearly asking for trouble.” One alternative to our current aging populations “involves massive state intervention designed to smooth the tensions between work and family life to enable women to have more children without steep financial setbacks.” Longman writes that “so far, countries that have followed this approach have achieved only very modest success.”

Longman then asks: “So is there a third way?”

Yes, though we aren’t quite sure how to get there. The trick will be restoring what, in the days of family-owned farms and small businesses, was once true: that babies are an asset rather than a burden. Imagine a society in which parents get to keep more of the human capital they form by investing in their children. Imagine a society in which the family is no longer just a consumer unit, but a productive enterprise. The society that figures out how to restore the economic foundation of the family will own the future. The alternative is poor and gray indeed. (Phillip Longman, “Think Again: Global Aging,” New America Foundation, October 13, 2010, last paragraph)

A Proclamation to the World

A fascinating document, in support of the family, flowered into existence on 23 September 1995. Entitled The Family: A Proclamation to the World, it was first read in a general Relief Society conference.

The proclamation begins by solemnly proclaiming that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. Further, we all are created in God’s image and that gender is an essential part of human identity before, during, and after life on Earth. A summary is outlined of the premortal realm, perpetuation of family relationships beyond the grave, and of temple ordinances and covenants. Now here is the part that most pertains to our discussion:

The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

The proclamation continues by identifying parental responsibilities in the rearing of children. To teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God, and to obey the law. A formula for happiness and for a successful marriage is detailed. And would a proclamation be complete without a warning?

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.


For decades our minds were filled with government propaganda of a world starving to death and grossly overpopulated with the West running out of food. Even today we hear similar cries. I find it ironic that many of these same governments are now offering thousands of dollars to their populace if they would just have a baby — or maybe two, or three. My wife and children — and now grandchildren are a constant source of joy to me. I am grateful that I followed the wise counsel of religious leaders (and ignored the politicians and “experts”) many years ago.

I am a software engineer by trade and know very little about world fertility rates. But the best way to learn is to write about it and discuss it. I look forward to your comments whether or not you agree with me.


External Articles

This list is updated occasionally, with newer additions listed first.

Photo Credit: Adelaide
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United States Total Fertility Rate Increases

Bryson and Grandpa

Bryson and Grandpa

Born in the U.S.A.

Recently I wrote about The Falling Fertility of Europe. Now it is the turn of the United States. The U.S. has one of the highest fertility rates in the West. The most recently available fertility statistics from the government are for 2006. Take a look at the table below and then join me in a discussion of what some of the numbers may mean. In the table below Birth rate refers to live births per 1,000 population. Teen birth rate is live births to women aged 15-19 per 1,000 of women aged 15-19 in the population. Fertility rate is live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years. The TFR (Total Fertility Rate) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime. Bear in mind that the replacement fertility rate is roughly 2.1 births per woman for most industrialized countries.

Highs and Lows

By sorting the TFR column we can see that 25 states have a Total Fertility Rate of 2.1 or higher. This is the replacement rate of the population. Of course because of immigration the population is increasing. Through the sort we can also see that Vermont has the lowest TFR and Utah the highest. Why is this? In Utah the high birth rate is undoubtedly due to the high percentage of Mormons in the state, who tend to have larger families. Vermont’s low birth rate, according to the Times Argus, is attributed to its racial homogeneity and high education levels among women — factors not easily changed by government intervention. Hispanic women, who comprise less than one percent of the state’s population, statistically have higher birth rates.

The Problem of Low Birth Rates

Consider what the Vermont Governor Douglas has to say:

Employers cite adequacy of the workforce as one major concern for future success here. We have employers who have created good jobs and want to create more, but they need a qualified workforce to take those jobs.

In the last year the number of people in Vermont’s workforce fell by 2,000. The low birth rate is a component of a much bigger problem. The median age of Vermont’s workforce, at 42.3 years old, is the highest in the nation. In the next twenty years the workforce is expected to shrink annually as those wage-earners reach retirement age. Because surrounding states also have low birth rates the competition for a shrinking pool of workers will become intense.

United States 2006 Fertility Rates by State

Click ONCE on column headers to sort.

State Birth rate Teen birth rate Fertility rate TFR
United States 14.1 41.4 68.4 2.10
Alabama 13.7 53.5 67.0 2.03
Alaska 16.4 44.3 76.7 2.32
Arizona 16.6 62.0 81.6 2.44
Arkansas 14.6 62.3 72.2 2.18
California 15.4 39.9 71.8 2.18
Colorado 14.9 43.8 70.2 2.11
Connecticut 11.9 23.5 58.8 1.90
Delaware 14.0 41.9 67.3 2.09
District of Columbia 14.7 48.4 58.4 1.70
Florida 13.1 45.2 67.3 2.09
Georgia 15.9 54.2 72.4 2.23
Hawaii 14.8 40.5 73.9 2.23
Idaho 16.5 39.2 80.9 2.42
Illinois 14.1 39.5 66.8 2.03
Indiana 14.0 43.5 68.3 2.08
Iowa 13.6 32.9 69.1 2.14
Kansas 14.8 42.0 73.3 2.23
Kentucky 13.8 54.6 67.1 2.05
Louisiana 14.8 53.9 70.6 2.11
Maine 10.7 25.8 54.5 1.77
Maryland 13.8 33.6 64.2 2.01
Massachusetts 12.1 21.3 56.9 1.78
Michigan 12.6 33.8 61.7 1.93
Minnesota 14.2 27.9 68.7 2.14
Mississippi 15.8 68.4 75.7 2.26
Missouri 13.9 45.7 67.9 2.06
Montana 13.2 39.6 69.5 2.13
Nebraska 15.1 33.4 75.1 2.29
Nevada 16.0 55.8 77.9 2.36
New Hampshire 10.9 18.7 53.4 1.75
New Jersey 13.2 24.9 64.5 2.05
New Mexico 15.3 64.1 74.7 2.23
New York 13.0 25.7 61.1 1.89
North Carolina 14.4 49.7 69.0 2.13
North Dakota 13.6 26.5 68.7 2.14
Ohio 13.1 40.0 64.7 1.99
Oklahoma 15.1 59.6 74.7 2.20
Oregon 13.2 35.7 65.4 1.96
Pennsylvania 12.0 31.0 60.6 1.93
Rhode Island 11.6 27.8 54.6 1.72
South Carolina 14.4 53.0 69.6 2.14
South Dakota 15.2 40.2 78.5 2.40
Tennessee 14.0 54.7 67.5 2.07
Texas 17.0 63.1 78.8 2.36
Utah 21.0 34.0 94.1 2.63
Vermont 10.4 20.8 52.2 1.69
Virginia 14.1 35.2 66.3 2.05
Washington 13.6 33.4 65.2 1.98
West Virginia 11.5 44.9 59.4 1.82
Wisconsin 13.0 30.9 64.0 2.01
Wyoming 14.9 47.3 75.9 2.24


Higher Teen Birth Rates

2006 saw significant increases of teen birth rates in 26 states. My table doesn’t show previous year’s statistics but an article in USA Today has a useful map comparing 2005 with 2006. Some blame the increase on a more sexualized culture and greater acceptance of births to unmarried women. Others say abstinence-only sex education and a possible de-emphasis on birth control may play a part. According to USA Today, Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, says she is less inclined to believe abortion is driving higher teen birth rates and suggests that increases in high-profile unmarried births in Hollywood, movies and even politics is a significant factor for impressionable teens. Sarah says:

In the last couple of years, we had Jamie Lynn Spears. We had Juno and we had Bristol Palin. Those three were in 2007 and 2008 and not in 2005 to 2006, but they point to that phenomenon.

Total Fertility Rate Details

The TFR was 2.1 births per woman in 2006, a two percent increase compared with 2005 (2.05) and the highest reported since 1971 (2.27). This is the first year the U.S. TFR has been above replacement since 1971. From 1990 to 1997, the TFR decreased substantially (from 2.08 to 1.97), but has generally increased since 1998. The increase in the TFR in 2006 reflects the increase in birth rates for nearly all age groups, especially for those women aged 15–19 and 20–24 years. The TFR also increased for nearly all race and Hispanic origin groups between 2005 and 2006 with the rate increasing 1 percent for non-Hispanic white, 3 percent for Hispanic, and 5 percent for non-Hispanic black women. (Source: National Center for Health Statistics PDF)


If not for immigration, the U.S. population would merely be replacing itself. In future years the birth rates will likely be declining, along with world birth rates in general. Because many have been indoctrinated with the “population explosion” myth it will be difficult to convince sufficient numbers that there is even a problem with low birth rates. What is required is an emphasis on family and the preciousness of children. Governments need to be friendly towards traditional marriage and encourage all to support family life.

External Articles

This list is updated occasionally, with newer additions listed first.
Census: Number of U.S. youth shrinks — Decline of more than 260,000 from 2010.
U.S. population grows at slowest rate since 1940s — A growth rate of 0.92 percent.
A Connecticut Town Adjusts to a Graying Population — Connecticut’s median age was 40 in 2010.
Is economy best birth control? US births dip again — Total Fertility Rate fell to 1.9 children.
Will the housing bust produce a baby bust? — A likely contributor to a baby bust.
Older Populations Soar as Age Trend Accelerates — Eastern and “rust belt” areas are aging rapidly.
Census reveals plummeting U.S. birthrates — There are now more households with dogs than children.
Where have all the children gone? — Number of kids declining across the country.
Census: New Hampshire population aging, growing — Median age jumps from 37 to 41.
The Baby Bust of 2009 in the United States — Births fell from 4,316,233 (2007) to 4,131,019 (2009).
Driven by the Recession, a Baby Bust Hits the U.S. — Threatens already-strained social programs.
Report: U.S. births hit all-time high — More babies in 2007 in the U.S. than ever before.
Babies — Expensive, Intrusive and Too Few for the Economy — $286,000 per baby.
3 Utah metro areas among fastest growing in U.S. — Utah’s continuing baby boom credited.
Birthrate drops in multiple states — Pregnancy falloff began months before economy’s troubles.
Population drop-off vexes Maine residents — Stems mostly from young people leaving.
The Family: The Hope for the Future of Nations — Happiness and the future is linked to children.
U.S. Birth Rate Decline Linked to Recession — An analysis of state fertility.
400 Million People Can’t Be Wrong — Why America’s new baby boom bodes well for our future.
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The Falling Fertility of Europe

Europe's birthrate is falling

Europe's birthrate is falling

Total Fertility Rate

In Europe there are significant decreases in birthrates. The replacement fertility rate is roughly 2.1 births per woman for most industrialized countries. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime. All of the European countries have a TFR less than the replacement rate of 2.1. The average is 1.53 and Lithuania records the lowest TFR at a rickety 1.22 (see the table at the end of this post).


So why are women in Europe having less babies? A New York Times article No Babies? attempts to answer this question. It concludes that there would seem to be two models for achieving higher fertility: the neosocialist Scandinavian system and the laissez-faire American one. The socialist model helps families with generous government support. The U.S. has a much more flexible work environment which can be helpful to families. In the article, Arnstein Aassve, a sociologist, put it this way:

You might say that in order to promote fertility, your society needs to be generous or flexible. The U.S. isn’t very generous, but it is flexible.

The article briefly mentions that some blame the low birthrate to secularism. That “the West has divorced itself from God and church and embraced a self-interested and ultimately self-destructive lifestyle abetted above all by modern birth control.”

Religion and Fertility

In 2007 the TFR in the United States rose to 2.1, the highest since the 1960s. A factor contributing to this healthy birthrate is the conservative and religiously oriented nature of American society, which encourages larger families. Closer to my home, Utah has a TFR of 2.6, attributed to the 69% Mormon population that traditionally have larger families primarily motivated by religious belief. Even closer to home, my wife and I have five children. Prior to my adult conversion to the Gospel I had planned for no children. As a member of the Church my views on children changed as I learned about the purpose of life and why God has placed us here on Earth.

A Warning

Not only in Europe but world-wide there are declining birthrates. The world TFR has fallen to 2.61 in 2008 from 2.80 in 2000. But Europe is in the most critical situation. Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau, in discussing Spain and Italy said:

Maybe tinkering with the retirement age and making other economic adjustments is good. But you can’t go on forever with a total fertility rate of 1.2. If you compare the size of the 0-to-4 and 29-to-34 age groups in Spain and Italy right now, you see the younger is almost half the size of the older. You can’t keep going with a completely upside-down age distribution, with the pyramid standing on its point. You can’t have a country where everybody lives in a nursing home.

And a more direct warning from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

Children are so often seen as boat anchors, a drag on society, and consumers of resources. But children are the future. Only by populations increasing into the millions have many advances been possible. Let’s not throw it all away.

European 2008 Total Fertility Rate by Country

Click ONCE on column headers to sort.

Country TFR
Albania 2.02
Andorra 1.32
Armenia 1.35
Austria 1.38
Azerbaijan 2.05
Belarus 1.23
Belgium 1.65
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1.24
Bulgaria 1.40
Croatia 1.41
Cyprus 1.79
Czech Republic 1.23
Denmark 1.74
Estonia 1.42
Finland 1.73
France 1.98
Georgia 1.44
Germany 1.41
Greece 1.36
Hungary 1.34
Iceland 1.91
Ireland 1.85
Italy 1.30
Kazakhstan 1.88
Latvia 1.29
Liechtenstein 1.51
Lithuania 1.22
Luxembourg 1.78
Macedonia 1.58
Malta 1.51
Moldova 1.26
Monaco 1.75
Montenegro 1.83
Netherlands 1.66
Norway 1.78
Poland 1.27
Portugal 1.49
Romania 1.38
Russia 1.40
San Marino 1.35
Serbia 1.69
Slovakia 1.34
Slovenia 1.27
Spain 1.30
Sweden 1.67
Switzerland 1.44
Turkey 1.87
Ukraine 1.25
United Kingdom 1.66
Average 1.53



CIA World Factbook
European Demographic Data Sheet 2008 (PDF)
Population Growth Rates — Pick your own countries to compare with Google Public Data Explorer

External Articles

This list is updated occasionally, with newer additions listed first.
The vanishing workforce — Germany will lose 20% of its workers.
Lithuanian census reveals population slump — Dropped 10% in a decade.
Germany Faces Economic Downturn with Falling Births — Aging also a factor.
The new baby boom — Average number of children a woman has is 2.8
Spain’s cash-for-kids plan fails to boost birth rate
Hungary Population Drops to Less Than 10 Million for First Time Since 1960 Population Counter — Watch the German population decreasing.
Latvia: The Demographic Price Of Procrastination
Population Consequentialism
In need of a miracle
Eastern Germany Confronts Skilled Labor Shortage

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