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What precisely is it that causes lower birth rates?





ocalhoun
In many developed countries, the birth rate is now equal to or below the death rate, while undeveloped and developing countries continue to have skyrocketing populations...

My question is: Why?

Not in general terms, but absolute specifics. What exactly is it?
Better education, as some here have said? If so, education about what, or just in general?
Simply being well-off?
Access to birth control?
Something else?

In other words, what exactly would have to be 'exported' to high birth-rate countries to slow them down some, without having to make them exact copies of developed countries, which would take too long, be too expensive, and create more resistance?
Josso
I think it's mainly down to education and the cultures of the more developed countries. In less developed countries I think it just seems natural to people to start big families, as often they have very little choice of ways to support themselves.
8166UY
High educated people also don't have the time or money when they are fertile. I also have to study untill I'm 30-something. The girls will probably also want to actually make some money after that, so there is no moment in which they could get pregnant without making all that studying worth nothing, as a matter of speaking.
Ankhanu
It's a mixture of, as mentioned, education and changes in lifestyle. In developed countries there is better access to education, allowing people make better informed choices on anything from reproduction to occupation to... whatever. In terms of lifestyle, well, we live more comfortably with longer life expectancy due to better access to health care, nutrition and maintaining life is no longer a struggle. Along with this comes a shift in focus from trying to live to careers and the like, and changes in family structure. In "developing" nations, the family is more important, and in many instances, is an individual's life line. In order to gain enough resources to live, you need a large support network, the family. With lower life expectancy and poorer health care the likelihood of losing children increases... more children is essentially insurance that enough will survive and be around to help gathering resources for the family to survive and when the parents become enfeebled, to take care of them before they pass on. In developed nations, large families are not needed to compensate for child death, as it becomes rare... it's also not needed to ensure that resources can be gathered to keep them alive, as basic necessities are much easier to attain.

This is, of course, a gross oversimplification, but that's a part of it.
deanhills
Apart from all the above reasons that have already been mentioned, I think religion may play a role as well. For example given the Catholic Church policies regarding birth control and using condoms, etc. wonder how many unwanted pregancies there have been, as well as large families. I think Muslims can practice birth control, but they feel so strongly about family and children. Children seem to define their good works on this earth, so Muslims seem to have a great number of children, but possibly for different reason than Catholics.

For some people children are also an investment in their future retirement. Children will be looking after them in their old age.
Xanatos
I think that each underdeveloped country needs to be evaluated individually. Some may need to give their youth better education, some may need higher paying jobs so that they don't have to create kids for free labor, some will need better health care so that they need not have so many children in the hopes that they survive, while others still will need heaps of all of these. I don't think that there is a one size fits all solution to this.
Gagnar The Unruly
I've heard that increased prosperity in some developing countries has led people to start having more kids, simply because they can now afford to. It may be more remarkable that birth rates are so low in much of North America and Europe. I think it has to do with the time it takes people to settle into permanent jobs and stable lifestyles.
deanhills
Gagnar The Unruly wrote:
I've heard that increased prosperity in some developing countries has led people to start having more kids, simply because they can now afford to. It may be more remarkable that birth rates are so low in much of North America and Europe. I think it has to do with the time it takes people to settle into permanent jobs and stable lifestyles.
Which countries are they? I would be surprised as usually with increased prosperity one would find more education. Women don't necessarily like to have a great number of children and the more independent they become, the more likely they would question having a large family.
ocalhoun
deanhills wrote:
Women don't necessarily like to have a great number of children and the more independent they become, the more likely they would question having a large family.

Perhaps that's it? Empowerment of women?
Xanatos
ocalhoun wrote:
deanhills wrote:
Women don't necessarily like to have a great number of children and the more independent they become, the more likely they would question having a large family.

Perhaps that's it? Empowerment of women?


This actually makes a lot of sense. If women are subservient to men, then they most likely must submit to them whenever the man wants. And why should the man care how many kids he has, he isn't the one raising them in these countries most of the time.
joe_b
Education of women in particular is often associated with lower birth rates. More education helps people understand the biology of reproduction, and methods to limit it if they so chose. In addition, some women choose to focus on their careers instead of a family. In countries that don't grant women the same rights or access to education, we see increasing wealth and industrialization increases birth rates because those women don't have other options than raising a family.
yagnyavalkya
Poor fertility is the cause I guess and also that evolutionary pressure could also be one of the reasons
Crinoid
Directly: some possibility of having choice at all.
Indirectly: influence on quality of life.
yagnyavalkya
there are several factors that cause this and also interaction of these factors that cause this
Bikerman
The major factor, i think, is women's ability to decide and control their own fertility. Given the choice most women, it seems, do not wish to spend the major part of their life giving birth and raising children.
Ankhanu
yagnyavalkya wrote:
there are several factors that cause this and also interaction of these factors that cause this


Insightful Razz

Bikerman wrote:
The major factor, i think, is women's ability to decide and control their own fertility. Given the choice most women, it seems, do not wish to spend the major part of their life giving birth and raising children.


This is quite true. Combine female control with improved living conditions and the reduction of infant mortality that goes with it and not only does the desire for high reproduction reduce, but the need of it also greatly diminishes.
iman
An older population, perhaps? Maybe it's all in the demographics.
Greatking
in the developed countries, there is access to good education which helps people to make well informed decisions. people are made aware of the benefits in family planing. but in developing countries people do not have access to these kinds of information. i am happy to say that now its improving.
yagnyavalkya
I think it could also be a natural evolutionary process of decreasing fertility so as to control the rate of growth of human population
Bikerman
yagnyavalkya wrote:
I think it could also be a natural evolutionary process of decreasing fertility so as to control the rate of growth of human population
That would require some driver which I don't see. Genes obviously know nothing about population, so you are positing some selection method which selects for genes producing low fertility. I can't see what the selection mechanism could possibly be, given that most of what we know about couples who choose to have no, or few, children tells us that it is a socioeconomic choice rather than reflective of some genetic infertility or low fertility.
It runs into further problems when you consider that birth rates are strongly correlated to economic and social factors and don't seem to show any general decline across the board...
yagnyavalkya
Bikerman wrote:
yagnyavalkya wrote:
I think it could also be a natural evolutionary process of decreasing fertility so as to control the rate of growth of human population
That would require some driver which I don't see. Genes obviously know nothing about population, so you are positing some selection method which selects for genes producing low fertility. I can't see what the selection mechanism could possibly be, given that most of what we know about couples who choose to have no, or few, children tells us that it is a socioeconomic choice rather than reflective of some genetic infertility or low fertility.
It runs into further problems when you consider that birth rates are strongly correlated to economic and social factors and don't seem to show any general decline across the board...

Gene dont think but the environment is making them behave in such a way
conscious physical efforts not to reproduce could possibly change some biochemistry over generations which could silence genes that are continuously not put to use. I mean silencing unused or disused genes. It is of course a conjectural and highly speculative hypothesis but theoretically possible.
Bikerman
yagnyavalkya wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
yagnyavalkya wrote:
I think it could also be a natural evolutionary process of decreasing fertility so as to control the rate of growth of human population
That would require some driver which I don't see. Genes obviously know nothing about population, so you are positing some selection method which selects for genes producing low fertility. I can't see what the selection mechanism could possibly be, given that most of what we know about couples who choose to have no, or few, children tells us that it is a socioeconomic choice rather than reflective of some genetic infertility or low fertility.
It runs into further problems when you consider that birth rates are strongly correlated to economic and social factors and don't seem to show any general decline across the board...

Gene dont think but the environment is making them behave in such a way
conscious physical efforts not to reproduce could possibly change some biochemistry over generations which could silence genes that are continuously not put to use. I mean silencing unused or disused genes. It is of course a conjectural and highly speculative hypothesis but theoretically possible.
There are many objections:
a) There haven't been 'many' generations. Birth control has only been widely available for 2 generations at most (ie since women had control with the advent of 'the pill').
b) Any such generic change would be naturally self-eliminating and would vanish over time, unless there was an external limiting factor preventing any woman having more than a couple of children - even if we do propose a longer timescale.
c) This would lead to a genetic variation between citizens of different countries, depending on the social/political incentives or disincentives for large families. I've not heard of any such genetic variation.
d) Occam's razor. Declining birth rate is explained adequately by other mechanisms so why complicate?
yagnyavalkya
Bikerman wrote:
yagnyavalkya wrote:
Bikerman wrote:
yagnyavalkya wrote:
I think it could also be a natural evolutionary process of decreasing fertility so as to control the rate of growth of human population
That would require some driver which I don't see. Genes obviously know nothing about population, so you are positing some selection method which selects for genes producing low fertility. I can't see what the selection mechanism could possibly be, given that most of what we know about couples who choose to have no, or few, children tells us that it is a socioeconomic choice rather than reflective of some genetic infertility or low fertility.
It runs into further problems when you consider that birth rates are strongly correlated to economic and social factors and don't seem to show any general decline across the board...

Gene dont think but the environment is making them behave in such a way
conscious physical efforts not to reproduce could possibly change some biochemistry over generations which could silence genes that are continuously not put to use. I mean silencing unused or disused genes. It is of course a conjectural and highly speculative hypothesis but theoretically possible.
There are many objections:
a) There haven't been 'many' generations. Birth control has only been widely available for 2 generations at most (ie since women had control with the advent of 'the pill').
b) Any such generic change would be naturally self-eliminating and would vanish over time, unless there was an external limiting factor preventing any woman having more than a couple of children - even if we do propose a longer timescale.
c) This would lead to a genetic variation between citizens of different countries, depending on the social/political incentives or disincentives for large families. I've not heard of any such genetic variation.
d) Occam's razor. Declining birth rate is explained adequately by other mechanisms so why complicate?

May be I was just being speculative !
Ankhanu
Like bikerman said, there'd be no selective pressure that would decrease fertility that would last in any meaningful way. Also, there's no evidence of fertility being the cause of demographic transition... unless you're referring to fertility as something other than reproductive viability. It's not that people become less capable of having children, what happens is that people choose to have fewer children. Generally the causes of demographic transition are economic, based on quality of living and advances in health care. Related to this are social changes in education, human rights and the like, which bring the choice to have children into the control of women and men.
natilovesmike
I think its probably education. To answer your question...I think if you could export condoms so people could have them for free and make sure there is a huge educational campaign about birth control...that could work...but you would need to reach the majority of the population....including the lower income people that might not have access to mass media...or might not have time to go to a free class.
ocalhoun
natilovesmike wrote:
...including the lower income people that might not have access to mass media...or might not have time to go to a free class.

Especially them. The 'higher income' people probably already have education and access to birth control.
Bikerman
The problem is not really education. You can educate people all you like but if the reality is that large families are incentivised* then it won't work.

* by which I mean
a) high infant mortality rate means having one or two children is 'risky'
b) in agrarian cultures then there is an incentive to have sufficient children to help plant/grow food and earn whatever can be earned. In the west the financial pressure is very much the other way - kids are expensive.

It also won't work as long as men control the fertility rate by default...
eday2010
Most people concentrate on working more than having a family. women don't want to be stay-at-home moms anymore, and taking parental leave disrupts their work. Plus most people don't farm anymore like in the olden olden days, so there is no need for a big family in order to have help on the farm.

I think the biggest thing is that the cost of living has gone up so much, that having a large family isn't affordable. Most families can't afford to have a stay-at-home parent, which is sad because I think that is the best situation for raising children. But I hear a lot of people saying they'd like to have more kids but cannot afford to. It's not just the cost of raising them, but also sending them to post secondary school. You could still afford to have the mom stay at home in the 80s. Today, it's rare that a family can do that.
Civil
I have found that it is the genetics that is causing the low rates. White males have a very low sperm count. Many white couples that want to have kids simply cannot. The fertility industry is a failing band aid.
I have also looked at the fact that having dna from neanderthals may not be such a good thing. I mean, they went extinct! Isn't that what we are talking about when we discuss low birth rates?
Ankhanu
Civil wrote:
I have found that it is the genetics that is causing the low rates. White males have a very low sperm count. Many white couples that want to have kids simply cannot. The fertility industry is a failing band aid.

Are these genetic factors? Please provide some background information on the genetic changes and causes you're referencing.

Civil wrote:
I have also looked at the fact that having dna from neanderthals may not be such a good thing. I mean, they went extinct! Isn't that what we are talking about when we discuss low birth rates?

As far as we've been able to determine, neanderthals went extinct at the hand of Homo sapiens, not poor fertility. We out competed and out-bred them, incorporating them into a segment of our own species.
sailor69
While this thread is mostly about demographics differences between nations, I believe disease, nutrition, or stress can also be factors. Anything that can interfere with the production, viability, or transport of an egg, sperm, or zygote can reduce overall birth rates. The health of small children, whether because of disease or starvation, is often at risk in many third-world countries. I am concerned about the possibility of contagious disease, for example, as a cause of many of these things.
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