Falling Fertility Question Set.


1. Define total fertility rate.

The average number of children born to women during their reproductive years in a population.


2. Define replacement level fertility.

The fertility rate that allows a population to stop growing: 2.1.


3. Explain why the recent decrease in the total fertility rate is significant.

The decrease is happening in many poor countries. This suggests that populations in those countries have made the following changes: the middle class is growing, women have access to contraception, education and careers, and, agriculture has become mechanized.


4. Who was Malthus? Google it.

Malthus was a British citizen who published an essay in 1798 that alerted the English-speaking world to the inevitability of a population explosion and future famine and/or warfare. He reasoned that, because of constant passion between the sexes, human population would continue to grow. It would grow at a geometrical or exponential rate (rapid), whereas the food supply grew only at an arithmetical rate (slow). Because of the difference in these rates, humans would not be able to provide enough food for their ballooning populations. The result would be famines, or warfare motivated by resource scarcity, which reduce population.


5. What is Malthusians’ view of the decrease in the total fertility rate?

Malthusians are not as optimistic as the author of this article. They focus not on the fertility rate, but on the absolute population, which they believe Earth cannot support.


6. How is the rate of the recent and current decrease in the total fertility rate different from what happened in Britain?

In Britain and other rich countries of the world, the fertility rate decreased to replacement level over the course of more than a century. In some countries, the fertility has decreased to the replacement level only in the last 20 years. That decrease happened in the space of just one generation.


7. With regard to total fertility rate, how is Iran exceptional?

After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran became an Islamic republic ruled by Muslim leaders. These leaders abolished Iran’s family-planning system to increase the country’s population.  Nevertheless, after an initial increase to 7, the fertility rate decreased to below replacement level in just 22 years. Clearly Iranian citizens ignored at least one policy of their leadership.


8. Explain why the total fertility rate is high in agricultural villages with impoverished populations.

Each child represents an additional laborer and old-age security.


9. What specific societal changes seem to lead to a decrease in the total fertility rate?

Urbanization, education, non-agricultural employment, the availability of consumer goods, wage-earning opportunities for women, state pension, higher living standards, stable markets and public services.


10. What did the Demographic and Health Surveys find about desired and actual family sizes in some poor countries?

The desired family size was one child less than the actual family size. This suggests that women did not have adequate access to family planning.


11. What is the role of availability of contraception in control of family size in poor countries?

Poor countries of the world have a higher demand than supply for contraception. East Asia and Latin America are the regions where supply of contraception most closely meets demand.


12. Which region lags in the provision of contraception?



13. What is the relationship between literacy and total fertility rate?

The most dramatic decreases in fertility rate have occurred in countries that have achieved dramatic increases in female literacy.


14. What was China’s strategy to lower the total fertility rate?  Did it work?

One-Child Policy from the early 1970s. Yes.


15. How does the recent decrease in the total fertility rate change the structure of a population?

The population pyramid bulges at the middle (people of working-age) and narrows at the base (young dependents) and is narrow at the top (elderly dependents).  Thus, the working-age population becomes larger in proportion to the dependent population.


16. Explain how this population structure is a demographic dividend.

Because the working-age population has a smaller relatively dependent population to support, their individual wealth increases.


17. How did China’s population control strategy contribute to their recent economic growth?

The increase in individual wealth mentioned in the answer to #16 occurred in China after the institution of the One-Child Policy. Chinese citizens invested a significant portion of their increased individual wealth (household savings) in economic activities that contributed to the growth of China’s overall economy.


18. What is primogeniture? Google it.  This inheritance tradition involves passing all of a family’s resources, especially land, down to the oldest son.  This tradition used to be common practice in northern Europe.  Some of the early migrants to North America were sons who were not the eldest and migrated seeking opportunity rather than working for their eldest brothers.


19. How does a lower total fertility rate in countries without primogeniture lead to greater individual wealth?

In Mediterranean Europe, the inheritance tradition involved dividing up a family’s resources equally between all male children. Over time and multiple generations, this led to increasingly small pieces of agricultural land, which became inefficient. With the decrease in fertility, a family’s resources were not carved up into so many plots with each generation.


20. If you were the president of a poor country that was experiencing a high rate of population growth, what strategies would you use to decrease the total fertility rate?

Educate women; ensure that they have universal access to contraception and the absolute freedom over their reproduction.  Also, remove barriers to women in the workplace. Institute child labor laws.   Require that every child have an iPhone, iPad, and a place on a traveling athletic team that plays 12 months a year.