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Fertility Rates

Crude Birth Rate : The total number of births in a single year per 1000 of the population. This doesn't include the age and sex structure of a population.

General Fertility Rate : The number of live berths per 1,000 women aged 15--49 in one year. May also be used to derive the general fertility rate for women in particular age bands.

Fertility Rate : The average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime.

World Fertility Levels

  • Fertility is still high in most of the least developed countries and although it is expected to decline, it will remain higher than the rest of the world.
  • In the rest of the developing countries, fertility has declined markedly since the late 1960's and is expected to reach below replacement level by 2050 in the majority of these countries.
  • Below replacement fertility prevails in the developed regions and is expected to continue to 2050.

Replacement Level Fertility

  • Replacement level fertility is the level of fertility at which a population exactly replaces itself from generation to generation.
  • In developed countries, replacement level fertility can be taken as an average of 2.1 per woman.
  • In countries with high infant mortality rates, however, the average number of births may need to be much higher.

Factors Effecting Fertility Rates


Level Of Healthcare

  • Improvements in health care, sanitation & diet lead to a drop in infant mortality rate e.g. The Demographic Republic of Congo has a total fertility rate of 6.91 and 0.088 doctors per 1000 people.
  • Availability of contraceptives for couples with knowledge and desire to use it e.g. Rwanda, where 10% of women practice modern methods of family planning and where the total fertility rate is 5.12. In Brazil, 70% of women practice modern methods of family planning and the total fertility rate is 2.21.

Level Of Education

  • In some countries, access to healthcare and education may be limited e.g. Afghanistan, total fertility rate of 7.7 with 0.17 doctors per 1000 & a female literacy rate of 13%.
  • Higher female literacy rates lead to improved knowledge of birth control, more opportunities for employment and more choice. This may lead to lower fertility rates.



  • Islam and the Roman Catholic church oppose the use of birth control although this influence may lessen with economic development.
  • In many parts of the world religion/tradition demands high rates of reproduction.

The Status of Women

  • Women in some countries are obliged to produce as many children as possible e.g. Nigeria, total fertility rate 4.9.


  • In some countries, the number of children is seen as a sign of virility and wealth.


Employment Opportunities

  • With the prospect of a career, women may have less children and marry later. e.g. the average marital age in the UK is 30.

  • Reduced access to formal employment and other income earning opportunities means women are forced to devote most of their time and energy to child bearing.

The Cost Of Having Children

  • Children are seen as economic assets in LEDCs. They can be used as workers on land or to bring in more income.
  • The time spent in education and the cost of childcare makes it more expensive to have a child. In the UK (TFR 1.66) the estimated cost of raising a child to 21 is £166,000.


Pressure from the Government

  • Some governments will try to influence the rate of population growth e.g. The chinese attempting to reduce the birth rate or Japan attempting to increase it.


Infant Mortality Rates

  • High birth rates to compensate a high infant mortality rate e.g. Nigeria with a birth rate of 5.16.
  • Reduced infant mortality rate reduces the need for lots of children for security. e.g. Japan's birth rate of 7.64 with an infant mortality rate of 2.79.

Age Structures

  • Countries with a large proportion of young people may continue to see a population increase due to population momentum.
  • Countries with a small proportion of youth face population decline even if birth rates per woman increase e.g. Japan.