Fertility Rates at an All-Time Low with the Global Population Still Growing

The Lancet recently published a study that found that fertility rates are only half of what they used to be in 1950. There are several factors to this decline, like more educated and working women and an increased access to birth control and family planning methods. Regardless of the decline in fertility rates, the global population is still growing. 

Current Fertility Rates

The global fertility rate refers to the average number of children a woman would have if she lived through all her reproductive years. In 1950, the global fertility rate was 4.7 live births. In 2017, that rate dropped to 2.4 live births per woman. This is not a cause for concern though because this number is not below the replacement rate. The replacement rate refers to how many children each woman would need to have in order to maintain the current population. As of right now, each woman would need to have 2.05 children to maintain the world’s population.

Though fertility rates have not been as high since 1950, the global population has almost tripled since then. In 1950, there were about 2.6 billion people, and there are now about 7.6 billion people. Since 1985, an average of 84 million babies joined the world’s population each year.

Rates Vary in Different Countries

Though the global fertility rate is lower, this does not mean that the fertility rates in every country are low. Of the 195 countries included in the study, about half of them were above the replacement rate. The other half was below the replacement rate. This divide was evident back in the 1950s as well. In the 1950s, the fertility rate in Andorra was 1.7, but in Jordan it was 8.9 births. As of 2017, Cyprus has a fertility rate of 1, and Niger has a rate of 7.1. The countries with the highest fertility rates are mostly in Africa, while many of the lowest are in Europe.

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Lifestyle Is a Factor

Because of the difference in fertility rates, some countries are experiencing a population decline. These countries have then tried to offer financial incentives for couples to have children, like parental leave. Italy launched an ad campaign a couple of years ago to remind the population that September 22 is fertility day. Denmark focused on education, teaching students that children come with responsibilities and benefits as well. Despite their efforts, these below replacement rate countries have not made a large impact on the fertility rates.

Some of the reasons for not having as many children are personal decisions, but there are several health reasons that prevent people from having children as well. The obesity rate is rising in almost every country, which raises mortality rates. High blood sugar, high blood pressure, high body mass index, and smoking contribute to almost three-quarters of death worldwide last year. Perhaps, in order for some countries to increase their fertility rates, they will need to focus on living healthier first.


The fertility rate in the United States is 1.8, which is under the replacement level, but the country’s population is still growing. This is mostly because of immigration. In order to maintain healthy populations throughout the world, certain people may need to migrate to other countries. As some countries have seen, urging couples to have children does not achieve results. Instead, the UN wants their population to decide how many children they want and have access to the resources to achieve their goals.

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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