27 Apr

Map of the Week: Declining Fertility Rates

By Katie Anderson

In 1805, the world saw its population reach one billion people. It would then take another 120 years (1925) to reach the second billion. In less than one hundred years from that, the world’s population reached eight billion people on November 15, 2022, also known as the Day of 8 Billion. This exponential growth in population however, is expected to slow down, or even stop entirely by 2100 due to globally falling fertility rates. The world fertility rate is defined as the number of children a person with the ability to bear children will have. This rate has been steadily decreasing since the 1970s, with 2020 reaching a global average of 2.3 births. Just above the replacement rate of 2.1 births, the 2020 rate allows the current generation being born to replace the generation above it. This overall number however, fails to reflect the regional and national differences around the world. According to the United Nations’ World Population Prospects 2022 Report, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population lives in a region where the fertility rate is below the 2.1 replacement threshold. 

The graphic above, created by Visual Capitalist using World Bank data, showcases the declining fertility rate over the decades as well as a world map of average births of women.  Besides Afghanistan, the top 30 fertility rate countries are located in Africa. Meanwhile, many of the countries that are currently the most populous – including China, India, and the United States – all have fertility rates below replacement levels. Falling fertility rates have been attributed to better access to contraception, improved opportunities for women, and improved access to healthcare which reduces child mortality. As a result, declining fertility rates are a sign of improved socioeconomic developments for several countries. However, governments are grappling with higher ratios of elderly to working adults – adding unwanted economic consequences like increased costs to healthcare and reduced amounts of taxable persons. There are long-term solutions that exist to increase demographics, such as reducing costs of childcare and providing families with better support. However, the global citizens of today are reshaping lifestyle priorities and expectations, so only time will tell how that will affect the fertility rate going forward.