Birth Rate Essay

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The birth rate, or the crude birth rate (CBR) as it is sometimes referred, refers to the number of childbirths per 1,000 of the population per year. When combined with the crude death rate (the total number of deaths per 1,000 of the population per year) the rate of natural population growth or decrease is calculated. However, for a more complete and accurate picture of population growth or shrinkage, patterns of migration must also be considered.

The levels of birth rate are affected by numerous factors. Of significant impact is government policies, which can either stimulate or depress the level of fertility and the number of births within a nation. For example, China has a relatively low birth rate (about 13 per 1,000 people) due to the Chinese national government advocating a policy of one child per family. Birth rate can also be affected by socioreligious beliefs, especially in regards to the use of contraception, as well as a country’s age-sex structure, economic prosperity, and levels of poverty. In relatively wealthy nations, the birth rate is usually low, even though families can adequately afford to have large families if they desired.

In wealthier regions of the world, such as Europe, North America, and parts of Asia, it is commonplace to find small family sizes and low birth rates. The birth rates in some affluent nations are so low that the total population level is approaching a point of decline, as in Japan. On the other hand, within societies where poverty is prevalent, it is not unusual to find that the birth rate is high; the level of the birth rate can be further exacerbated when the age-sex structure of a nation is relatively young, that is, at a sexually active age. When societies are less economically developed, their fertility rates will be higher than nations that have already undergone economic advancement. At present, the global birth rate is about 20 per 1,000, yet in some economically developing nations it is higher than 50 per 1,000, as in Niger and Mali. In contrast, affluent parts of the world like Hong Kong, Monaco, and Singapore have rates of less than 10 per 1,000.

Regardless of the influence of culture, economics, or politics, where the infant mortality level (the number of children dying under one year of age divided by the number of live births annually) is high, it is also common to find a high birth rate. This is partly a behavioral response of families, which may have more children given their knowledge some might die in childhood. In African nations like Angola, where the child mortality rate is 192 per 1,000, and in Asian nations like Afghanistan, with an infant mortality rate of 166 per 1,000, the birth rate is in excess of 45 per 1,000, some of the world’s highest.


  1. Cecilian Nathans, Accepting Population Control: Urban Chinese Women and the One-Child Family Policy (Curzon, 1997);
  2. Zeba Ayesha Sathar and James F. Phillips, Fertility Transition in South Asia (Oxford University Press, 2001);
  3. Kathleen Tobin, Politics and Population Control: A Documentary History (Greenwood Presss, 2004).

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