The Good News About Fertility

In recent decades, fears of an imminent unrestrained population explosion have waned, as family planning programs have helped reduce the average number of children born to women in developing countries from 6 in the late 1960s to 3.5. In fact, in the world's most populous country, China, the fertility rate is currently below the population replacement level of 2.1 children per woman, and demographers are hoping fast income growth will keep it low--as it has in such nations as Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan and in all the leading industrial countries.

Meanwhile, concern is focused on the larger number of developing nations where fertility rates remain far too high. Current trends indicate that the world's population will still grow mightily in coming decades--from 5.7 billion today to over 8.3 billion in 2025, according to the Population Reference Bureau. And virtually all of that growth will occur in developing nations--increasing their share of the world's pmpulation to 85% by 2025.

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