Back To CourseSociology 104: World Population
8 chapters | 88 lessons
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Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.
This is one of my favorite fairy tales. In it, a public policy researcher by the name of Studylocks is examining national fertility policies, or policies focused on birth rates. It's a real issue. You see, over here fertility rates are too high. And over here, fertility rates are too low. But here, fertility rates are just right, and that's what most nations are shooting for.
Generally, the ideal fertility rate is considered to be at 2.1 , which means an average of 2.1 children per woman in a population. Since producing a child requires two partners, this number is just barely above the replacement level, or the fertility rate where population neither increases nor decreases. Your population maintains the exact same number of people across generations because every couple creates two children to replace them. Most nations aim for a fertility rate that's just above the replacement level so they have a very gradual and consistent level of growth without stagnating or growing too quickly. So, that's what Studylocks is aiming for, an average of 2.1 children per woman. But, how will she get there? After all, some fertility policies don't work and some are unethical, but some are just right.
One of the big problems facing many nations over the last 50 years or so is a dramatic increase in fertility. Generally, this is assumed to be the result of industrialization, since the development of industrial technology tends to bring with it changes to healthcare and food quality. The result is a very healthy population that can reproduce efficiently with a low rate of infant mortality, allowing populations to increase quickly. This can be a problem in terms of overpopulation, and many governments have created policies to decrease fertility rates. Now, off the bat, let's talk about two of these that generally are no longer accepted. Policies of forced sterilization are considered unethical and no longer used. Also, non-intervention is also falling out of practice. Many governments assumed that they could not interfere, and the problem would fix itself, but that hasn't been working, so more direct action is preferred.
Okay, so Studylocks is looking at policies that work and don't work to reduce fertility. She's going to start with direct measures, formal rules about fertility. China is, perhaps, the most famous example. Due to extremely high rates of fertility and unsustainable population growth, in 1980, China started its one-child policy, which legally mandated that families could have only one child. At first this was enforced through things like forced sterilization and other actions now considered unethical. In the late 1980s and 1990s, however, this was enforced through a mixture of fines and benefits. The one-child policy did reduce China's growth rate, but brought other issues as well. For example, many Chinese families traditionally preferred male offspring, which lead to high rates of abortions if the mother was carrying a daughter. Now, China allows for a second child if the first is female and has eased up on other restrictions as well, so that only about 1/3 of the population is still subject to the one-child policy.
Although most nations do not formally limit family size the way China has, the use of incentives and disincentives to limit fertility is a common tactic. For example, Vietnam has, at times, implemented fines for families with too many children. In Nepal, people who choose to have smaller families receive tax breaks, and in India, parents with fewer children qualify for national retirement benefits. Generally, the policies that provide incentives are considered more ethical than those that provide punishments, since they respect an individual's right to choose for themselves what sort of family they want. But, what policies are most effective? Well, Studylocks has found that some tactics do seem to work best. For one, making contraceptives readily available - and making people aware of how to use them - makes a huge difference. Also, Studylocks found that when countries increase the educational and employment opportunities for women, this leads to lower fertility as well, since more women become focused on careers rather than parenting. These policies are ethical, effective, and the result is a population size that tends to be just right.
Now, not everybody in the world is worried about having fertility rates that are too high. In some areas, fertility rates are below the replacement level, meaning that they are too low. This is a relatively new issue, largely in areas with fully industrialized economies where so many men and women are focused on careers that having children ceases to be a priority. Right now, Israel, Uruguay, and the United Arab Emirates are dealing with a fertility rate below the replacement level. So, how do we fix this? Like I said, it's a relatively new problem, but we do have a few examples of successful policies. Sweden once had very low fertility rates, and researchers found that while couples wanted children, the balance between work and family was too difficult. So, Sweden implemented policies to increase maternity care, make daycare more affordable, and provide benefits for new parents. With these changes, it became possible to have a family and a career, and Sweden's fertility rates increased to a sustainable level. Not too high. Not too low. Just right.
In many nations, fertility rates, or rates of birth, are a major concern. If this number is too low or too high, it could create problems. Most nations today shoot for an ideal fertility rate of around 2.1, or 2.1 children per female. This is just above the replacement level, the rate at which population neither increases nor decreases. So, this ideal rate creates gradual and sustainable growth.
Nations going through major periods of industrialization tend to have very high fertility rates. Some have formal laws to decrease rates of childbirth, such as China's one-child policy. Others rely on a mixture of incentive and disincentives to encourage an ideal family size. In general, incentives are considered more ethical than disincentives, and polices like forced sterilization are no longer considered ethical at all. The best policies to decrease fertility rates involve making contraceptives more available and increasing educational opportunities for women.
However, some nations have an opposite problem; the fertility rates are below the replacement level. To increase fertility rates, places like Sweden made balancing family and career more manageable through better daycare and parental benefits. With the most ethical and most efficient policies, nations can get fertility rates exactly where they want them. Just ask Studylocks.
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Back To CourseSociology 104: World Population
8 chapters | 88 lessons