As a topic, population refers to the size and composition of social groupings and the dynamics of change in these characteristics. It extends to the determinants and consequences of levels, differentials, and changes in fertility, mortality, and spatial distribution. Within the social sciences, population study has a broad concern with the cultural, social, economic, and psychological causes and consequences of these characteristics (see Hauser and Duncan 1959; Coleman and Schofield 1986; Stycos 1987; Namboodiri 1988). Within sociology, the main concern is with linkages between social institutions and the dynamics of population change and equilibrium (see Taeuber, Bumpass, and Sweet 1978; Nam 1994; Greenhalgh 1996). Demography is an important component of population study that focuses on data collection, measurement, and description. (Though it would be impossible to cite all articles relevant to the general topic of population, a number of useful articles are cross-referenced at the end of this article.)
Overview of Population History
A brief overview of major changes in the characteristics of human populations will suggest some of the linkages between social life and these characteristics. (For a more detailed discussion see, for example, Wrigley 1969; Petersen 1975.)
During Neolithic times, hunting and gathering groups probably consisted of only a few dozen individuals. Based on the technology and the area believed to have been populated, it is estimated that in about 8000–6000 B.C. the population of the world was only five million to ten million (Yaukey 1985, p. 38). Probably about half of all children died before age 5. Mainly because of the high mortality of infants and children, life expectancy was probably only about 20 years, although some adults would have survived to advanced ages. Maternal mortality was also high, probably resulting in considerably shorter life expectancy for females than for males (United Nations 1973, p. 115). In such a setting, the social consequences of these fundamental demographic facts would have been enormous. Many of our current social values and institutions have their roots in this harsh environment.
Death was sudden, random, and frequent—at least five times as common, in a population of a given size, as in a developed country today. A major function of religion was to enable people to interpret death as a part of the life course and to surround it with rituals. New births to offset these deaths were essential for the survival of a group. There can be no doubt that many groups, of various sizes, failed in this effort, but the survivors were our ancestors. Children were important to the economy of the household and community from an early age, and young adults were crucial to the welfare of older adults. Practices and institutions to encourage fertility—of humans, as well as of the environment of plants and animals—were essential. Marital unions of some type would have been virtually universal and would have begun at an early age. It is likely that unions would have been arranged by the parents, partly because they occurred at such early ages, as well as because of the social advantages of arranged marriages for strengthening an intergenerational network of social obligations. Thus the social institutions of religion, marriage, and the extended family, among others, had some of their original impetus in the extremely high mortality of human prehistory and the consequent imperative for high fertility and child survivorship.
One of the most remarkable functions of social institutions is that they provide valves or mechanisms by which population size can be regulated to be compatible with the prevailing environmental circumstances and the level of technology (Davis 1963). As just mentioned, high mortality must be accompanied by comparably high fertility if a population is to sustain itself. For the most part, it is the level of mortality that drives the level of fertility, through various intervening mechanisms, although mortality (infanticide) has sometimes served as a means of population control. The social regulation of population size usually takes the form of increasing or decreasing the average number of births per woman, to compensate for uncontrollable influences on mortality.
Humans have a much greater capacity to reproduce than is often recognized, and even in situations of very high mortality and fertility there is usually an untapped potential for even higher fertility. There are well-documented ‘‘natural fertility’’ populations in which the average woman who survives the childbearing ages has 10 to 11 children after age 20, and it is estimated that the average after age 15 could be as high as 16 children under some circumstances. (Of course, if maternal mortality is high, many women will not survive the childbearing years.) The potential supply of births is adequate to balance even the most severe conditions; if it were not, the species would not have survived.
Over the long run, there has been a pattern of increased life expectancy with two major transitions. The transition from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture and larger human settlements produced a net increase in life expectancy, although with some shifts in causes of death. Larger settlements have a higher incidence of infectious diseases because of inadequate sanitation and sources of clean drinking water. The second major transition began in the seventeenth century with industrialization and the progressive reduction of deaths from infectious diseases. Fluctuations in mortality due to transitory influences have been superimposed on these two main transitions (Tilly 1978; Wrigley and Schofield 1981). Some of the short-term increases in mortality, due to wars, famines, and epidemics, have been devastating. For example, the Black Death in fourteenth-century Europe eliminated more than one-third of the population in several areas.
During the transition to agriculture and larger settlements, mortality fell and population size increased. It is believed that, starting in roughly 5000 B.C., world population approximately doubled every 1,000 years, reaching 100 million around 500 B.C. It doubled again in the next 1,000 years, reaching 200 million around 500 A.D., and again in the next 1,000 years, reaching 425 million in 1500 A.D. (McEvedy and Jones 1978). Most of the growth was in Europe and the Middle East. This is obviously an extremely low rate of growth by modern standards, around 0.07 percent per year, but it was a marked increase from the hunting and gathering era.
The increase in carrying capacity with a new technology and social organization probably had its principal effect on reproduction at the household level (Laslett and Wall 1972; Goody 1976, 1983). If territory for new settlements is absent or inaccessible, having too many children will lead to excessive division of land and property. Some kind of limitation on reproduction will result. The most important social mechanism or lever for regulating fertility has probably been limitation of exposure to the risk of conception—in short, regulation of sexual activity. Thus, in preindustrial Europe, the age at marriage was high—on average, in the mid-twenties. The motivation for delaying marriage and the formation of new households probably arose because the parental generation had limited land to pass to their children. Marriage and childbearing were deferred until a viable household could be established. These household-level motives led to a general consensus that marriage at later ages was preferable. Associated with late age at marriage were voluntary rather than arranged marriages, and apprenticeships or domestic service for many young people. Alternatives to married life developed—for example, celibate religious communities. These behaviors can be viewed as mechanisms for fertility limitation, even though they certainly had more direct functions as well. Within marriage there was probably very little use, or even knowledge, of contraception.
When short-term increases in mortality occurred, as with a famine, war, or epidemic, the social response was an increase in the prevalence of marriage and/or a reduction in the mean age at marriage. Again, these motivations operated primarily at the household level, in the sense that when mortality rose, there were increased opportunities for land division and settlement, and new households could be formed more quickly. The attempt here is to characterize population growth and homeostasis in the broadest terms, up to the beginning of the industrial era in the West. Because of limited space, this description glosses over enormous differences worldwide in the patterns of reproduction and social structure and their linkages. There have several ethnographic and historical analyses of these variations (see, e.g., Hanley and Wolf 1985).
The growth of population that accompanied industrialization is indicated by the following estimates. World population was about 545 million in 1600; 610 million in 1700; 900 million in 1800; 1,625 million in 1900. It is expected to be about 6,100 million in 2000 (McEvedy and Jones 1978; United Nations 1998). The period saw an acceleration in the rate of growth, as well as enormous increases in sheer numbers of people. Prior to 1900, Europe increased most rapidly. In other parts of the world, most of the increase was concentrated in the twentieth century. This period of rapid growth is described as the demographic transition. It is discussed briefly below.
The transformation of mortality from a common event, occurring most often to children, to a relatively rare event, occurring most often to the elderly, arose from a confluence of technological and social developments. Most important among these was the control of infectious diseases spread by microorganisms in the air and water. An improved understanding of the etiology of these diseases, together with technical capacity and political support for public health measures, led to childhood vaccinations, clean drinking water, and improved sanitation (McKeown 1976). Standards of personal hygiene and cleanliness of clothing improved. There is little evidence that improvements in diet were important, and curative (as contrasted to preventive) medicine played a relatively small role in the main part of the transformation.
In developed countries, the infant mortality rate has steadily fallen from about 250 deaths (in the first year of life) per 1,000 births to a present level of fewer than 10 per 1,000 births (Mosley and Chen 1984). One consequence of a decline in the risk of infant and child deaths is to increase the sense of parental control over reproduction. It is more rational to develop notions of desired numbers of children when the survivorship of children is less random. Similarly, as survivorship improves, it is more rational to invest in children’s future by providing them with formal education. The cost of children, to their parents and to the larger society, increases as child mortality falls and life expectancy improves (see, e.g., Easterlin 1976).
The increase in life expectancy, currently about 73 years in the developed countries, has also resulted in a rise in the mean age of the population, in a substantial increase in the proportion who are elderly or retired, and in a shift to causes of death associated with old age. These trends have broad social implications—for the employment of and advancement in opportunities for young people, the resilience of political structures, and the cost of retirement programs and medical care for the elderly, for example.
Fewer births per woman, together with the now negligible rates of maternal mortality in developed countries, have resulted in a substantially greater life expectancy for women than for men. Although at birth there are about 104 males for every 100 females, there are progressively more females, per male, for every age after about age 30 in the United States. The elderly population consists disproportionately of women. Also, because women tend to be younger than their husbands, they typically experience much longer periods of widowhood than men do.
In today’s developing countries, mortality decline has been much more rapid than it was in the developed countries, because an accumulation of Western public health measures could be introduced nearly simultaneously. Most of the decline has occurred since World War II and the ensuing independence of most of these countries from colonial powers, although some of it can be traced back to earlier decades of the twentieth century. The rapidity of the mortality decline and its largely exogenous nature have been factors in the delay of a subsequent fertility decline in many cases (see Preston 1978).
Within Europe, the onset of substantial reductions in fertility occurred first in France early in the nineteenth century, and last in Ireland early in the twentieth century. In the earliest cases, the onset of fertility control coincided with mortality decline rather than following it. In general, a lag between the decline in mortality and the decline in fertility resulted in substantial population growth. In the United States and Britain, 1880 is regarded as a watershed year for the widespread initiation of contraception.
With no exceptions, from the cases of France through Ireland, the initiation and the bulk of the modern fertility declines occurred mainly as a result of contraception rather than delayed marriage, and in contexts in which contraception was publicly regarded as immoral, supplies and information were illegal, and methods were primitive by today’s standards. As a generalization, births were not intentionally spaced or postponed; rather, attempts were made to terminate childbearing at some earlier parity than would have been the case without intervention. Some married couples appear even to have chosen to have no children or only one child. The main contraceptive method was withdrawal (coitus interruptus). Abstinence was probably not infrequently used as a last resort. Rhythm may have been used, but probably incorrectly; douching was common but was probably ineffective. Sterilization was not available, although it is likely that a high proportion of hysterectomies served the same function. Condoms were not widely available until the twentieth century.
It is clear that the motivation to control fertility was both powerful and personal. It is unfortunate that it is so difficult at this distance to reconstruct the specific strategies that were employed, patterns of communication between couples, and sources of information. However, at least two generalizations can be made. One is that the practice of contraception required an ideational justification, to the effect that individual couples have a personal right to control their family size. From a modern perspective it is easy to overlook the fundamental importance of this concept. It is not just a coincidence that France was the first country to experience contraception on a wide scale, that it was the home of the Enlightenment, and that it was also the first European country to experience a fundamental political revolution. Intervention to prevent a birth rests on the premise that it is legitimate for an individual—or a couple—to make critical choices affecting personal welfare. Contraception can be viewed as a manifestation of a value for personal freedom, even in the face of strong pronatalist pressures from both church and state.
A secondary condition for contraceptive use in the West appears to have been some degree of local development, as evidenced by higher literacy and a higher standard of living. Historical research continues into the importance of specific factors such as the relative status of women, the transition to a wage-earning class, local industrialization, improvements in social security and public welfare, and so on. (For more details on specific countries, see, e.g., Ryder ; Livi Bacci ; Teitelbaum . For a general discussion of these factors in Europe, see van de Walle and Knodel . For theoretical discussions, see Caldwell [1976, 1978]. See also Nam .)
Turning to the transition in economically less developed countries, one to two generations of reduced mortality, combined with a traditional high level of fertility, resulted in annual growth rates of 3 percent or more. However, beginning in the late 1960s, some Asian countries, particularly Taiwan and South Korea, began to experience rapid declines in fertility. At present these countries have reached approximate equilibrium between fertility and mortality rates, although they continue to grow because of their youthful age distributions. About a decade later, Thailand, Indonesia, and several Latin American countries such as Colombia and Mexico showed rapid reductions in their fertility rates. By the late 1990s, dramatic fertility declines were under way in nearly all countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa and Pakistan, and even these countries have shown clear declines among better-educated urban couples. The declines are due in small part to delayed marriage, but for the most part to use of contraception—primarily sterilization, and secondarily reversible methods such as intrauterine devices and the pill (see Bulatao and Lee ; Cleland and Hobcraft ; see also the country reports published on the Demographic and Health Surveys Project by Macro International [1985–2000]).
The conditions for these fertility declines show both similarities to and differences from the Western declines. It appears critical for couples to accept the idea that it is appropriate to intervene in the procreative process. In Pakistan, for example, it is commonly held that the number of births, as well as their gender and survivorship, is in the hands of Allah, and it would be wrong to interfere with his will. (It must be noted that a stated religious rationale for high fertility often masks other factors, such as a subordinate role for women. In other Islamic countries, such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, and even Iran, family planning is considered to be consistent with Islam.) Contraception tends to be found where the concepts of political and economic self-determination are better established, particularly among women. Female education is the single strongest correlate of fertility change.
In contrast with the Western experience, however, it also appears critical to have institutional support for contraception. The countries that have shown the clearest declines in fertility had national family planning programs with visible support from the highest levels of the government. The most effective programs have integrated family planning services into a general program of maternal and child health, and provide couples with easy access to a range of alternative methods (see Lapham and Mauldin 1987). Many countries are actually passing beyond this phase of the contraceptive transition, beginning in the 1990s, so that government-subsidized programs are being replaced by privatized services, at least for the middle class.
The consequences of population growth for economic development have been much debated (Simon 1977; Birdsall 1980). There have been some cases, such as Japan and South Korea, in which rapid economic expansion occurred simultaneously with rapid increases in population. Virtually all such cases were transitional, and the fertility of those countries is currently at replacement level, so the debate is now of mainly historical interest. There is a general consensus that low growth facilitates development. A growing population has a young age distribution, with many new entrants to the labor force and relatively few old people in need of pensions and health care. These factors may stimulate economic growth, but they must be balanced against the costs of supporting and educating large numbers of children. In several countries, such as the Philippines, the economy is unable to employ large cohorts of young people satisfactorily, especially those who are better educated, and they emigrate in large numbers. In addition, household welfare can be adversely affected by large numbers of children, even in situations of economic expansion at the macro level. The negative consequences of rapid growth extend beyond the economy and into the areas of health, social welfare, political stability, and the environment.
Changes in Population Distribution
Enormous changes in geographical distribution have been superimposed on the major trends in population size described above. Many of the social problems attributed to rapid population growth are more accurately diagnosed as consequences of increasing concentration. Urban areas, in particular the megalopolises of developing countries such as Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and New Delhi, have been growing during the twentieth century at more than twice the rate of the countries in which they are located. Cities are centers of concentration of economic, intellectual, and political life (see Hawley 1981), but rapid growth has exacerbated the problems of inadequate housing, sanitation, transportation, schooling, unemployment, and the crime associated with urban life. It is estimated that, in the year 2000, 76 percent of the population of developed countries is urban (compared to 26 percent in 1900 and 55 percent in 1950). In the developing countries, 41 percent is urban in 2000 (compared to 7 percent in 1900 and 18 percent in 1950).
The growth of cities has resulted in part from the excess of births over deaths in rural areas. With out-migration serving as one of the householdlevel valves for population regulation, individuals have been displaced from areas that cannot absorb them and have moved to cities, which are perceived to have better economic opportunities. Often that perception is incorrect. With a few exceptions, fertility is lower in cities than in rural areas.
A second major type of population redistribution in recent centuries has, of course, been across national borders. Movement to the Americas was greatest during the half-century between 1880 and 1930, and continues to the present. There are many streams of both short-term and long-term international migration, for example out of South and Southeast Asia and into the Middle East, Europe, and North America, and from Africa into Europe and North America, and the economies of several sending countries are strengthened by monthly remittances from their emigrants (United Nations 1979, 1997).
Population of the United States
The United States has a population of approximately 278 million in the year 2000 and a growth rate of somewhat less than 1 percent annually, roughly one-third of which is due to immigration and two-thirds to natural increase. Fertility is slightly below replacement level, but there are more births than deaths because of the large size of the baby boom cohort, born from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. Age-specific fertility rates are increasing gradually for women in their thirties and forties, mainly because of postponed first and second births rather than later births. Otherwise, rates have been remarkably stable since the early 1970s. Rates below age 20 were dropping in the late 1990s but are still higher than in most other developed countries. For several excellent articles on fertility levels, differentials, and trends in the United States, see Casterline and colleagues (1996). See also National Center for Health Statistics (1999) and more recent annual reports in the same series.
Perhaps the most serious issues related to fertility are the large numbers of unplanned births to young women and the high numbers of abortions—about 2 for every 5 births—that could have been averted by contraception. Few developed countries have a range of contraceptive methods as limited as that of the United States. For example, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and progesteronebased pills are the two main nonsurgical methods in the rest of the world, but IUDs are not available in the United States. As mentioned earlier, most of the fertility decline in the West occurred while contraception was considered immoral and was explicitly illegal. Although contraception and even abortion are now legal, deep cultural ambiguities remain in the linkage between sexuality and procreation. A litigious environment has inhibited both the development of new contraceptives by American pharmaceutical companies and the marketing of new contraceptives developed elsewhere, and the U.S. government plays a minimal role in such development.
Life expectancy in the late 1990s was 73 years for males and 79 years for females (PRB 1998). Although life expectancy is increasing for both males and females, the female advantage is also gradually increasing. The female advantage was nearly 3 years at the beginning of the twentieth century, nearly 4 years at the middle, and nearly 7 years at the end of the century (Gelbard et al. 1999). The greatest improvements in mortality are in the highest age groups, especially after age 85. Because of increases in the number of elderly and projected changes in the age distribution of the labor force, the age at receipt of full Social Security benefits is scheduled to increase gradually, from 65 to 66 by the year 2009 and to 67 by the year 2027 (Binstock and George 1990).
Among males, whites have approximately a 5-year advantage over nonwhites, and among females, whites have approximately a 4-year advantage (National Center for Health Statistics 1989; and more recent annual reports in the same series). Life expectancy for black males is falling, due mainly to deaths by homicides to black males in their twenties and a greater prevalence of cardiovascular disease among blacks (Keith and Smith 1988). Infant mortality rates for nonwhite babies are increasing, due to low birth weights and inadequate prenatal care. These reversals of earlier long-term improvements are indicators of worsening conditions among poorer Americans. (For more description of the population of the United States, see Bogue ; Lieberson and Waters ; Sweet and Bumpass ; Nam .) (See the end of this article for cross-references to articles containing more discussions of the population of the United States.)
The overriding concern of world population policy in recent years has been the achievement of a new equilibrium between fertility and mortality, so that growth will be slowed or stopped. Sometimes this policy is stated in terms of enabling couples to have the number of children they want to have, and no more, because surveys in most developing countries indicate that couples desire smaller families than they actually have (see the country reports published by Macro International
The concept of replacement fertility is important for understanding population projections. Normally stated in terms of the female population, the reproductive value of a woman of a given age is equal to the number of daughters she will have who will survive to (at least) this same age. If the average reproductive value is exactly 1, then fertility is at replacement level. This occurs when the average woman has about 2.1 births in her lifetime (a little above 2.0, to compensate for children who do not survive). If there has been a history of higher fertility, then the population has been growing and is relatively young, with many women in the peak ages of childbearing. As a result, there can continue to be more births than deaths (i.e., population growth) for a very long time after the net reproduction rate has reached or even fallen below the replacement value of 1.0. However, in the long term, replacement fertility will lead to a no-growth population, and below-replacement fertility will lead to population decline.
Strictly speaking, reproduction is intergenerational, but it is estimated with the net reproduction rate, a synthetic measure calculated from agespecific fertility and survival rates within an interval of time such as one year. If an artificial cohort of women is subjected to these rates and does not replace itself, then current fertility is interpreted to be below replacement.
Projected improvements in mortality would have a relatively low impact on population growth. For reproduction, it is survivorship up to and through the childbearing ages that matters. Improvements in survivorship after age 45 or so have little impact. Projections do require some assumptions about the future of the human immunovirus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and also in South and Southeast Asia.
In the year 2000, world population is estimated to be 6.1 billion, with a growth rate of about 1.8 percent annually. If the current rate were to continue, world population would reach 9.2 billion by the year 2025. Even if reproduction immediately came into balance with mortality, as just described, world population would continue to increase. Population momentum, due to the youthful age distribution, would produce an excess of births over deaths (i.e., growth) for more than a century. World population would reach 7.5 billion by 2025, eventually stabilizing at nearly 10 billion. Substantial future growth is inevitable, but there is a wide range of possible scenarios.
Projections developed by the United Nations (United Nations 1998) for the year 2025 range from a low variant of 7.3 billion to a medium variant of 7.8 billion and a high variant of 8.4 billion, depending on assumptions about about future mortality and (more important) future fertility. By comparison, ten years earlier (United Nations 1988) the low projection for 2025 was 8.5 billion, slightly above the current high projection. This substantial downward revision reflects a general optimism that the threat of a world population explosion has largely receded. (It also implies that little credibility should be attached to longerterm projections, and for that reason this article will not cite projections beyond 2025.)
All the current projection scenarios assume that fertility will decline. The lowest estimate is based on an assumption that it will decline to below-replacement levels very soon, after 2005, and will decline steadily thereafter. This assumption is highly improbable, but even the medium variant assumes that worldwide fertility will be below replacement by 2030. This is a remarkable change from earlier projections, because prior to the late 1990s almost all scenarios assumed that fertility would ultimately converge to replacement level, with uncertainty only about when that would occur. Now that better data are available on actual changes during the 1980s and 1990s, it is considered likely that fertility will fall below replacement level early in the twenty-first century.
The net reproduction rate is currently less than 1.0 (that is, fertility is below the long-term level needed to balance mortality) in virtually all the more developed countries. The one-fifth of the world’s population that resides in those countries will increase scarcely at all, and much of that growth will be the result of immigration from developing countries. Around the year 2000, compared to a standard of replacement fertility, Europe is at 68 percent of replacement level and North America is at 93 percent, while Asia is 10 percent above replacement, Latin America is 20 percent above, and Africa is 84 percent above. (These percentages come from estimates and medium-variant projections for 2000 by the United Nations .) It is projected that low growth in Europe will cause the median age to rise to the mid-forties by 2025, with a fifth of the population above 65 years of age, a situation that the United States will approach a few years later. An excellent discussion of the causes and effects of future population change, and of many of the other topics in this article, can be found in Gelbard and colleagues, Haub, and Kent (1999).
lthough world growth has been the preoccupation of recent decades, the possibility of population decline has long been acknowledged in Europe. In the United States, fertility has been below replacement since approximately 1970, and if it were not for high levels of immigration, this country would also face the prospect of population decline. Policies directed at increasing fertility in European countries have met with little success (see Calot and Blayo 1982; van de Kaa 1987). In urban settings with a high standard of living, children lose much of their earlier value as a source of economic activity, household wealth, and security in old age. They become increasingly expensive in terms of direct costs such as clothing, housing, and education, and in terms of opportunity costs such as forgone labor force activity by the mother.
In brief, there are probably two main reasons why fertility has not declined even further in the developed countries. One is the adherence to a powerful norm for two children that was consolidated around the middle of the twentieth century. Surveys show an overwhelming preference for exactly two children—preferably one boy and one girl, especially in the United States—with little flexibility either above or below that number. Actual childbearing often departs from the norm, more commonly by being below two children, so that fertility is below replacement. A high proportion of childbearing beyond two children is due to a desire for at least one child of each sex. Reliable methods to achieve the desired sex composition would result in a noticeable reduction of third and later births.
Second, children provide parents with a primary social group. There is no longer an expectation that they will provide support in old age, nor an important concern with carrying on the family name, but children do provide psychic and social rewards. To bear children is to emulate the behavior of one’s parents and to replicate the family of orientation. However, this goal can be largely attained with only one child, as is being demonstrated in the lowest-fertility countries of Europe and in urban China. As increasing numbers of women opt for no children or only one child, it is possible that the widespread preference for two will weaken, even in the United States. For further discussion of fertility preferences in the United States, see Schoen and colleagues (1997).
Although the world as a whole is far from experiencing a decline in population, the low reproductivity of some countries and subpopulations raises questions about future mechanisms for restraining an indefinite decline in fertility, and eventually in population (see Teitelbaum and Winter 1985; Davis et al. 1986). It is reasonable to speculate on whether the cultural and social props for replacement fertility will continue to hold, or whether, as in the low and medium UN projections, worldwide fertility will decline to belowreplacement levels early in the twenty-first century.
Major reductions in fertility in the past have been the result of delayed marriage and contraception and have been motivated at the level of the household. Maintenance of equilibrium in the future will require an increase in desired family size and less use of contraception. Many household-level factors associated with economic development would seem to support a projection of continued decline in fertility—for example, increased labor-force participation and autonomy for women, declines in marriage rates, increased costs for the education of children, and increased emphasis on consumption and leisure. It is easier to project a continued decline in fertility, rather than a significant upturn, in the absence of major changes or interventions in the microeconomy of the household. However, it also seems plausible that children will take on an increased (noneconomic) value as they become scarcer, or that subpopulations that favor high fertility will come to dominate, in which case the world will return to the previous pattern of long-term homeostasis at some level, or will establish a new pattern of very gradual growth, rather than allowing an inexorable decline.
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