Writers Michael Teitelbaum and Jay Winter point out in a recent New York Times piece that nearly half of all people now live in countries where women on average give birth to fewer than 2.1 babies. That is the number generally required to replace both parents. And this is not only true of nations such as Japan and Australia. It is also true in nations like Bhutan, El Salvador and Armenia.
Moreover, fertility rates are continuing to decline in much of the emerging world, including in places like Brazil, Iran and in much of southern India. Fertility rates have been falling in those parts of the world since the 1980s. Very high national fertility rates have not disappeared, it’s just that they are mostly concentrated in a single region – sub-Saharan Africa.
Last year, all 5 nations with estimated births per woman of six or higher were there – Niger, Mali, Somalia, Uganda and Burkina Faso. So were nearly all of the 18 nations with fertility rates of five or more, with the only exceptions being Afghanistan and East Timor. Some economists believe that falling birth rates in emerging societies not only free women to do other things like work and go to school, but also allows for more investment per child.