The development and well-being of a country depends on many attributes and factors, both internal as well as external. One of the most important determinants of the dynamics of any country, in a general framework, is the economic progress of the country and the activities taking place in this domain. Many of the indicators of well being of the residents of the country depends on the economic progress and distribution of the fruits of such progress among the population of a country. One such important attribute, which roughly shows the overall condition of a country, is the birth rate or the fertility of the population of the country. Fertility of the population of a country has considerable implications on the welfare dynamics of a country as the same is linked to many other attributes including the overall infrastructural framework, education and employment status as well as income of the country, which is usually measured with the help of the Gross Domestic Product of the country.
There exists huge speculations and theories regarding the linkage between the birth rate of a country and the income of the country, in macro sense. The most popular theoretical frameworks, which have been evolved over the years, suggest a presence of inverse relationship between the above two variables. However, there are substantial arguments against this belief also. Taking this debate regarding the presence of a relation between the income status of a country and its fertility at the same point of time, the following section of the report incorporates a detailed review of the literatures and scholarly works in this aspect.
Over the years, the economists and speculators across the world have argued over the relationship between the income level dynamics of a country and the changes in the birth rates of the population of the same country. Many theories and counter theories have come forward regarding this aspect. There exists considerable amount of literary evidences in this topic of concern, some asserting the presence of the said linkage while some negating the arguments put forward.
Income and Fertility: Malthusian View
One of the pioneering thinkers in this domain was Thomas Malthus. Malthus (1809), more than two centuries ago, argued in his works, that income is one of the primary determining factors of the fertility of the population of the country and the dynamics in the same. Malthus, in his works, argued in favor of the presence of positive relationship between the income growth of a country and the growth of the fertility statistics of the country. According to Malthus, with the increase in the income of the nation, the overall income and well being of the population of the concerned nation also increases. This in turn enables the population to produce more offspring as they can afford to have more children, which in its turn contributes to the increased fertility rate of the country. His views were supported by a considerable share of scholarly works during that period, including the extensive essay on population dynamics by Malthus and Layton (1958), which also theoretically argues in favor of the presence of a direct relationship between the above discussed two variables.
Malthus, however, did not just stop at this speculation only. In his later works, Malthus (1872), also suggests to emphasize on the effects and burdens of high population and higher fertility rates on the nation, especially in the time of crisis like natural calamities and others. As he argues, the population of a country, in order to prevent the sufferings ensuing an economic or natural turmoil, should impose a “moral restraint” on the number of children they are willing to have. His views, along with considerable support from some other scholars of his time shows the presence of the notion of the need for birth control for a higher social well being as early as in the nineteenth century.
The theoretical assertions of Malthus, though seemed to be feasible in the then period, however, as the domain of research increased and empirical evidences started to be taken into account, a very interesting trend, entirely opposite to that of the above assertions was found to exist in real case scenarios. This was termed by the scholars as the Demographic-Economic Paradox, which is elaborated in the following sections, with the help of the literary evidences.
The Demographic-Economic Paradox
The scholars succeeding them countered the conventional views of Malthus and his contemporaries. Chesnais (1992), being one of them, in his elaborate and empirically supported paper, put forward an interesting pattern observed in the relationship between the income of a country and its fertility. He, with the support of robust empirical evidences, shows the presence of an inverse relationship between the income growth of a country and the changes in the fertility rate of the same. The author argues that with time, as a nation moves in the path of economic progress, with the overall income and standard of living of the residents of the country continually increasing, the fertility of the population of the concerned country usually decreases. He supports his assertions with empirical evidences, thereby contradicting the theory of positive relationship between the income and fertility of the population of a country, as was proposed by Malthus. His views found strong support by many other scholars in their works, one of the primary ones being Becker (1960), who also advocated in favor of the presence of a negative correlation between the two variables, the correlation being bilateral according to him.
However, Chesnais only concentrates in showing the occurrence of a negative relationship between the income growth and population’s fertility of a nation, in a generalized framework. He does not venture in finding out the causes for the occurrence of such relationship between the variables of concern. This gap was to a considerable extent filled by Perotti (1996). Perotti, in his article tries to investigate the reasons lying behind the presence of an inverse linkage between the birth rate and the GDP of most of the nations of the world, as was evident from the empirical evidences across time and places.
Reason behind the inverse relationship between GDP and Birth Rate
According to Perotti, a country, with its economy in its initial low developed state is characterized by attributes like low income, inferior living conditions, low standard of living and overall inferior infrastructural facilities on part of the government of the country. This in turn leads to the presence of lower health care facilities and life expectancies at birth. The death rate of children and infants are also very high. This makes the population more concerned about the survival of their successors, which in turn results in higher birth rates in the country. The author argues that with the economic progress of the country and with the overall income of the nation increasing, the general well-being and the standard of living of the overall population also improves. This, clubbed with the improvement of the government infrastructure makes life easier for the residents, which reflects in their assurance of a better and secured life. The life expectancy of the population at birth also increases, which in turn reduce the number of children people, want to have, thereby leading to a decreased overall fertility rate.
The inverse relation between the fertility and the income level of a country, as has been speculated by many scholars, has several other determining factors apart from what has been suggested by the above author. Docquier (2004), supporting the arguments put forward by Perotti, also adds some other factors supported by empirical evidences. According to the author another very important factor which can justify the inverse relationship between the national income of a country and the fertility of the same is the increase in the level of education and awareness among the population with the economic progress of the country.
As argued by the author, with the increasing economic progress of a country, the overall developmental aspects of the same increases. This on one hand improves the general infrastructures of the country and on other hand increases the monetary advantages of the people of the same country. An economically strong population strives for a better standard of living and can also afford education for themselves. With increase in the growth of the country’s economy, awareness generation also becomes widespread and the economy moves towards the path of urbanization. This becomes even more prominent in the female population, who start receiving education, general awareness and employment opportunities, which contributes to their financial independence. These factors, collectively contribute towards the decrease in the willingness to have more babies which thereby decreases the fertility of the population as a whole. Stanford and Smith (2013) also points out the implications of religious factors and beliefs on the income and fertility dynamics of the population of a country.
Jones, Schoonbroodt and Tertilt (2008), in their elaborate analytical paper, puts forward the perceptions in the individualistic level, regarding the reasons behind the decrease in the fertility of the population of the country with the increase in the overall national income of the country. According to the authors, there are roughly three broad reasons behind the presence of such inverse relationship, which are as follows:
- As the authors suggest, with the increase in the income of a person due to growth in the career prospects, there remains the chance of occurrence of a huge opportunity cost of having new babies as the concerned individual has to let go his or her career opportunities to a considerable extent. This, in the contemporary period, is especially true for the female population of the country.
- The inverse relationship between the income and the fertility of a country at a particular point of time, is highly attributed to the increasing education and employment prospects of the female of the country. As the country economically progresses, the female population gets more exposure in terms of education, skill development and employment. This leads to their increased financial independence and changes in priorities. Females as well as the males start preferring late marriages in order to settle in the work life first. Increasing education and awareness generation also leads to implementation of different birth control methods thereby resulting in a decline in the fertility of the country.
- Kravdal and Rindfuss (2008) also stresses on the implications of the perceptions of the highly educated couples regarding parenting on the overall fertility rate of the countries. According to the authors, the higher income and educated couples mostly prefer quality parenting to more number of babies. With the notion of having less number of children and of providing a quality life to them, these couples restrain themselves from having more number of babies.
The above theories regarding the inverse the empirical evidences from several important corners of the world have majorly supported relationship between the income and fertility rates of a country. Kremer and Chen (2002), puts forward the real life examples in the international framework, supporting the negative relationship between the two concerned variables. They put forward the instance of the dynamics in fertility rates in Russia post the Revolutions of 1989. The demographic profile changed in the country considerably at that point with higher fertility among those who were more adversely affected by the labor market crisis than those who were not affected that much. Another example of presence of the inverse relationship, as put forward by the authors, was the instance of the increase in the per capita GDP in the Eastern Europe (1990) which was found to be correlated with the decline in the birth rates and the postponement of bearing child.
The above discussed relationships, both positive as well as negative, has been challenged by the contemporary data findings which show changes in the patterns of the correlations as well with time across different countries. In his findings, England (2017), shows that in many cases the relationship between the income levels and the fertility rates in the country went from positive to negative and vice versa depending upon the time span considered. The author argued that the patterns of the fertility with the changes in the income level of the countries alter from short run to long run, depending upon the perceptional change and the infrastructural and awareness generations in the country (Balbo et al. 2013). However, the authors do not emphasize on the exact pattern of the changes in the relationship of the concerned variable. Luci-Greulich, and Thévenon (2014) and some other scholars however, negates the notion of presence of any relationship between the dynamics of the two concerned variables, arguing that it varies with regions, period taken into consideration and individual perceptions of the society.
The speculators have, extensively studied the relationship pattern of the concerned variables with time, across the world. Furuoka (2013), in this context, has put forward the theory of the Fertility J-Curve, which is one of the newest and most feasible theories existing in the contemporary international framework, regarding the dynamics of the relationship between the income level in the country and the fertility rates of the same. This has been supported by the works of Anderson and Kohler (2015), who elaborates the implications of the Fertility J-Curve in this context. The authors collectively suggest that the relationship between the two variables is not a liner negative one. According to them, initially with the increase in the income level of the population of a country, the fertility decreases as have been ascertained conventionally by many authors and scholars. However, after a point of time the fertility again shows a positive relation with the increase in the income of the economy, thereby showing a J-Shaped pattern.
From the above extensive review of the literatures, it is evident that there exists some relationship between the income level of a country and its birth rates. However, there exist different opinions regarding the pattern of the relationship and their dynamics with time. This, therefore, leaves opportunities and chances of exploration for the future research prospects, which can be taken, into account in the concerned research.
Anderson, T. and Kohler, H.P., 2015. Low fertility, socioeconomic development, and gender equity. Population and development review, 41(3), pp.381-407.
Balbo, N., Billari, F.C. and Mills, M., 2013. Fertility in advanced societies: A review of research. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie, 29(1), pp.1-38.
Becker, G.S., 1960. An economic analysis of fertility. In Demographic and economic change in developed countries(pp. 209-240). Columbia University Press.
Chesnais, J.C., 1992. The demographic transition: Stages, patterns, and economic implications. OUP Catalogue.
Docquier, F., 2004. Income Distribution, Non?convexities and the Fertility–Income Relationship. Economica, 71(282), pp.261-273.
England, P., 2017. Households, employment, and gender: A social, economic, and demographic view. Routledge.
Furuoka, F., 2013. IS THERE A REVERSAL IN FERTILITY DECLINE? AN ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF THE" FERTILITY J-CURVE". Transformation in Business & Economics, 12(2).
Jones, L.E., Schoonbroodt, A. and Tertilt, M., 2008. Fertility theories: can they explain the negative fertility-income relationship? (No. w14266). National Bureau of Economic Research.
Kravdal, Ø. and Rindfuss, R.R., 2008. Changing relationships between education and fertility: A study of women and men born 1940 to 1964. American Sociological Review, 73(5), pp.854-873.
Kremer, M. and Chen, D.L., 2002. Income distribution dynamics with endogenous fertility. Journal of Economic growth, 7(3), pp.227-258.
Luci-Greulich, A. and Thévenon, O., 2014. Does economic advancement ‘cause’a re-increase in fertility? An empirical analysis for OECD countries (1960–2007). European Journal of Population, 30(2), pp.187-221.
Malthus, T.R. and Layton, W., 1958. An essay on population(Vol. 2). Dent.
Malthus, T.R., 1809. An essay on the principle of population, as it affects the future improvement of society (Vol. 2).
Malthus, T.R., 1872. An Essay on the Principle of Population Or a View of Its Past and Present Effects on Human Happiness, an Inquiry Into Our Prospects Respecting the Future Removal Or Mitigation of the Evils which it Occasions by Rev. TR Malthus. Reeves and Turner.
Perotti, R., 1996. Growth, income distribution, and democracy: What the data say. Journal of Economic growth, 1(2), pp.149-187.
Stanford, J.B. and Smith, K.R., 2013. Marital fertility and income: moderating effects of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints religion in Utah. Journal of biosocial science, 45(2), pp.239-248.