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Course: MCAT > Unit 4

Lesson 1: Foundations of behavior passages

Fertility rates and demographic change


Demographers and social scientists examine various factors associated with population change. Fertility rate is a notable indicator of demographic shifts. Fertility rate can be defined as the number of children that the average woman bears. The world’s overall average fertility rate is 2.7. The table below indicates the highest and lowest fertility rates in the world for selected countries.
Table 1. Fertility rates by country, highest and lowest, 2006
CountryNumber of ChildrenCountryNumber of Children
Hong Kong1.0Guinea-Bussau7.1
South Korea1.1Mali7.1
There are various explanations for differences in fertility rates across the world. Some demographers provide explanations of high fertility rates in developing countries—high mortality rates, lack of opportunities for individual advancement, and the higher economic value of children (e.g. children can contribute to household economic productivity). However, another study looked at advanced countries and found that low fertility is a result of conflict between high levels of gender equity in individual social institutions (e.g., the workplace), and low levels of gender equity within the home. In these situations, women elect to have fewer children in order to remain competitive in the market, and to be in control of their own futures. The researcher argues that low fertility will persist unless gender equity within families rises.
To further trace demographic shifts, demographers also calculate a country’s crude birth rate--the annual live births per 1,000 population. The formula for the rate of natural population increase (rate of population change in the absence of migration) is (in %): (crude birth rate − crude death rate) / 10. Table 2 shows world crude birth rates and crude death rates.
Table 2: World crude birth and death rates (1950-2010)
YearsCrude Birth RateCrude Death Rate
Data Adapted From:
Henslin, J. M. (2015). Essentials of sociology: a down to earth approach. 13th ed.
McDonald, P. (2000). Gender Equity in Theories of Fertility Transition. Population and Development Review, 23(3), 427-439.
Caldwell, J. (1976). Toward a restatement of demographic transition theory. Population and Development Review 2(3/4), 321-366.
UN Data, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision.
Which of the following is correct according to the data presented in Table 1?
Choose 1 answer: