Changing attitudes toward women’s education and improvement in medication have helped lower the national birth rate.
Birth rates are decreasing across the United States. National Public Radio reported that the U.S. birth rate is now lower than it has been in 30 years. The general fertility rate hit a record low in 2017 at around 60 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, which is considered to be the standard reproductive age range.
USA Today speculates that millennials’ changing attitudes to having children as a cause for this decline. Americans in this category are now within the average reproductive age range, but many are choosing to have fewer children or have them later in life. Additionally, immigration shifts contribute to the decline. Immigrants from India and China are now arriving in greater number than any other country of origin, and these families typically have fewer children per household than other immigrant groups.
Collectively, world population growth has been steadily decreasing every five years since the 1970s. It seems today that women do not feel so obligated to settle down and have a family as they did 30 years ago. People do not so automatically assume that a woman will eventually start a family of her own. This relates to changing gender norms. Women are less thought of as homemakers or house wives than before, at least in my experience as a female college student.
However, lower birth rates do not have to be viewed as a negative trend. People are living longer due to advanced medical treatment and safety measures. This brings us to overpopulation. Overpopulation has become a prominent issue all over the world. Resources like food and water could be exhausted as the globe’s human population outgrows the Earth’s ability to support over seven billion people. This is why any changes in birth or death rates are important to monitor.
Though developed regions like the United States, Europe and East Asia have low birth rates (and therefore low population growth), other continents are still seeing rapid increases. The World Population Review revealed that Africa’s rates are the highest, with Niger, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo experiencing the fastest growth. Each of these countries has at least five children per female citizen, as compared to an average of 1.8 children in the United States.
Children are needed for labor forces in developing countries. These countries also feature high maternal and perinatal mortality, limited access to birth control and contraceptives and younger average marriage ages. The National Center for Biotechnology Information stated that these factors contribute to the higher birth rates in developing countries.
This organization also cited inadequate education for women as a cause for high birth rates as well. This claim relates back to what my economics and sociology professor Ron Jepperson discussed in his Global Trends course. He explained that access to reproductive healthcare products such as birth control, along with reproductive health education for women in developing countries is vital to a country’s overall well-being. It allows for an economy to operate with a manageable population. Though countries have the desire to be able to replenish their populations with an equal birth rate and death rate for optimal economic functioning, given the looming unsustainability of overpopulation, perhaps less will be more in the future.
When speaking to The Guardian, environmental experts even predicted a chocolate shortage by 2020 due to less cocoa supplies. These plants are harvested in rainforests. Rainforest coverage in South America and in Africa are shrinking as demand for resources rise and human diseases spread. And I don’t know about you, but I do not want to bring children into a world without chocolate.