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.
In economics, there is a theory called supply and demand. The idea is that the value of a product is determined by the balance of its availability and how badly people want it. Now, according to some researchers, this theory of economics can be applied to human fertility. Okay, so how's that supposed to work? What, are we calculating a potential supply of babies? And, then I suppose we just compare that to the demand for offspring?
Actually, yeah. That's exactly right. In the supply-demand model of fertility, fertility rates are assumed to represent a balance between the possible number of children a couple can have and the desired number of children. So, having kids is a choice, and the decision is based on these two factors: how many kids can you have and how many you want.
Okay, so how does this actually work? Well, let's take a look at a few societies with different fertility rates, and we'll see. Although this model can be applied to individual people, right now we're going to focus on it as it applies to an entire culture.
And, here we are. Welcome to Studyland, a beautiful, fictitious cyber-community of beautiful cyber-people. Studyland has a very high fertility rate, so let's look at supply and demand factors.
The people here are very healthy once they reach adulthood and get married very early in life, which gives them the maximum potential number of offspring. On top of that, this is an agricultural society, so having a large family does not cost much extra, but having those extra hands to help with the farm is very nice. So, there is a lot of social pressure to have a large family.
Alright, let's recap. People marry young and have more chances to have children, so supply is high. At the same time, social pressures encourage large families, so demand is high! What's the result? This society has a very high fertility rate. The high supply and high demand give couples freedom to decide exactly when they want to have more kids, since they're not concerned about never having enough.
How about another example of a high-fertility society? This over here is Studyburg, the fictitious, virtual neighbor to Studyland. In Studyburg, most people between 15 and 30 emigrate to find work somewhere else, so all of the people still here are over 30. This means that they have physically less time to reproduce and fewer chances to have a child, so supply is low.
However, this is also an agricultural society, but their children emigrate at age 15, and on top of that, this area doesn't have great healthcare, so infant mortality is high. The risk of losing children means that couples must try to have even more offspring to compensate, so demand is high, really high actually.
Since supply is low but demand is high, this society will do pretty much anything to maintain as high a fertility rate as possible, so things like birth control are not only unpopular but possibly even illegal.
Let's take a trip to the other side of the map, and check out a town with low fertility. Welcome to Studyopolis. Now, in some ways, this society looks familiar. Just look at all of these young couples. People here get married young, again meaning that they have more chances to reproduce, so supply is high. However, there aren't a lot of children in this society. This is an industrialized society, not an agricultural one, and there are different social pressures. Having large families does not increase your economic success. In fact, just the opposite.
The cost of raising children is very high here because parents are expected to give their children every opportunity possible, from the best schools to annual vacations that increase their cultural experiences. So, small families are preferred, and demand is low. However, since supply is so high, these people have the most control over their family size, and birth control will be very important to ensure that they have exactly how many kids they want, exactly when they want to have them.
The last society we'll be visiting today is Studytopia, and actually this town has the lowest fertility rates we've seen so far. In Studytopia, everyone's number one priority is their career. People here get an education, work hard, and then maybe will think about getting married and having kids later in life. Since people get married later, supply is low here. But that's not all.
These people don't want to give up their careers just because they're married. Child-raising is very expensive here as well, and these people have gotten used to working hard, making good money, and being able to spend it on luxuries. So, social pressures discourage large families, and many people either have only one child or none at all. demand is low, very low in fact.
Low supply and low demand means, unsurprisingly, that fertility rates are very low. Birth control is a very important part of life that lets people focus on their careers without the risk of pregnancy. And that's it: four societies, four different fertility rates. And, it all came down to supply and demand.
In the supply-demand model of fertility, fertility rates are assumed to represent a balance between the possible number of children a couple can have and their desired number of children. When couples want lots of children, demand is high. When couples prefer to have a smaller family, demand it low. Similarly, supply is high when couples have more opportunities to reproduce, which generally means marriages at a younger age. When couples are not married until later in life, they have fewer opportunities to reproduce, so supply is low.
In this model, fertility rate is a balance of supply and demand, and factors influencing each tend to be cultural. In societies with high infant morality, low cost of child raising, and an economic benefit to have a large family, there are substantial pressures to have more children. On the other hand, societies that emphasize individual careers and have high costs of child raising expenses, there is more pressure to have smaller families. So, as it turns out, the value of kids is like the value of any other product. It's all about supply and demand.
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Back To CourseSociology 104: World Population
8 chapters | 88 lessons