By 2009, the official TFR had risen to 1.537, 1.417 in urban areas and 1.900 in rural areas. Both urban and rural TFRs rose by about the same amount from 2000 to 2009, about 0.330. Vital statistics for 2010 were just released by the national statistics office, GOSKOMSTAT, also known as ROSTAT. The birth rate continues to rise but not as sharply in the past two years as it did in 2007 and 2008. One must wonder if the slower increase in the past two years suggests the birth rate revival may be running out of steam or that it may be due to the global recession. But natural decrease is now but one-fourth of what is was in 2000 and that is a truly dramatic turnaround. The TFR can be estimated at about 1.56 for 2010 although we must wait for the official TFR when it is released later this year. Births for January 2011 have also been released and those are down slightly from January 2010, 131,454 from 132,371. One month hardly defines a trend but I thought I’d pass that along.
This is still below replacement, but is substantially higher than the estimates from 2000, when the birth rate per woman bottomed out to roughly 1.2. At the time, everyone was extrapolating a near-certain birth spiral.
This brings to mind an article from Nature from a couple of years ago that argued that fertility follows a “J” curve with respect to human development. The graph plots fertility against human development (HDI) by country in two time periods:
That is, rather than fertility declining irreversibly with higher levels of development (which is what one might have thought in 1975, or in Russia through the 1990s); it appears that fertility seems to recover a bit at the highest levels of development. This doesn’t apply to all countries — Japan and Italy may have been left behind — but partially explains the relatively high fertility rate of, say, native-born Americans. Explaining the drop in fertility with rising development is easy; explaining the subsequent rise is a little tougher. I see two basic options:
1) It’s important that the measure here is HDI, as opposed to GDP/capital. What’s crucial is the level of female empowerment. Where women have the option to work and raise children, they frequently do so. Where they cannot as easily (Germany for instance, where a substantial cohort of women remain childless and attached to the workforce), women are simply forced to choose. It’s no coincidence that countries like Japan or Italy see plummeting fertility even at high levels of income.
2) This represents the optimal parenting strategy across income ranges. At Malthusian levels of income, additional income is spent on more children. As incomes rise, families start to face a “quantity/quality” tradeoff that leads to them invest more in fewer children. At yet higher levels of income, families are able to invest fully in multiple children.
It’ll be worth seeing whether some of the low-fertility countries out there today — particularly in Southern/Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia — recover. At some point, many countries will also start maxing out their HDI, and we’ll need another indicator. Perhaps people are reading Selfish Reasons to Have Children.