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Global Fertility and Population Scientific American Mar 97

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Historically, fertility has varied widely, but beginning in the 19th-century Europe and America, it has generally declined as parents came to favor smaller families. According to the latest United Nations projections, this trend will continue, stabilizing the world population early in the 23rd century at somewhat under 1 1 billion, compared with about 5.8 billion today. The map shows the total fertility rate, which indicates the total number of children the average woman will bear in a lifetime based on the experience of all women in a given year, in this case, 1996. A rate of less than 2.11 children per woman will eventually result in a declining population for a country, assuming no immigration. (The extra 0.1 1 allows for deaths of children before they reach reproductive age.) A dip below this rate does not lead to a declining population until about seven decades or so later, when all those living at the time the replacement level is reached have died. Such a case is illustrated by Japan, which arrived at the replacement level in the 1950s, well before other industrial nations. The Japanese population will probably level off or decline in the second decade of the next century.

At the opposite end is sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region on the globe. The population here may not stabilize until early in the 23rd century, when it could reach over two billion. India could achieve a stationary population of more than 1.5 billion by the late 22nd century, making it more populous than China, which has stringent limitations on reproduction. The populations of Pakistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia could stabilize at more than one third of a billion each, whereas those of Mexico, Vietnam, Iran, Z3ire and the Philippines could reach well over 150 million be fore leveling off. Projecting population far into the fu ture naturally involves guesswork, and this applies particularly to the U.S. be cause of uncertainties about the future course of immigration-right now the highest in the world-and the unpredictability of nonwhite and Hispanic fertility, which are currently well above replacement levels. The U.S. could conceivably reach a population of more than half a billion by the 22nd century (U.S. W in graph) or, by lowering fertility and restricting immigration, achieve a population at or below the current level (U.S. "B"). -RodgerDoyle

World Birth-control Use Scientific American Sept 96

Over the past 30 years or so, there has been a dramatic decline in world fertility rates, particularly in developing countries. Between 1960 and 1965 women in these countries averaged six births over a lifetime, but 30 years later they averaged only 3.4. In east Asia over the same pe- riod, births per woman fell 65 percent and are now below the replacement rate of 2.1 children. In other parts of Asia, births declined by about a third, whereas in Latin America, they have almost halved. In Africa, on the other hand, the drop has been only 10 percent. In the developed countries the number of births per woman declined by about 40 per- cent and are now below replacement level in virtually all these countries, including the U.S. Modern contraceptive methods have played a key role in lowering fertility. Among women of reproductive age who are married (or in nonmarital unions), half now depend on such methods as female sterilization (the most popular), male sterilization, hormonal implants such as Norplant, in- jectibles such as Depo-Provera, intrauterine devices (IUDs), birth-control pills, condoms and diaphragms. The firsmur methods are almost 100 percent effective in preventing conception. Next are IUDS, followed by the pill and the male condom. Diaphragms are among the least effective. Condoms-both the male-and female type-are the only methods currently available that provide some protection against sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. The percentage of women using modern contraception now stands at 54 percent in Asia (39 percent if China is excluded), 53 percent in Latin America, 30 to 40 percent in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa, 48 percent in the countries of the southern tip of Africa, but less than 10 percent in that vast region comprising the mid- dle part of Africa. In the developed countries of North America and western Europe, modern niethods are used by 65 to 75 percent of women. Usage in the countries of the former Soviet Union averages less than 20 percent because birth-control products are in short supply. Women there have depended heavily on abortion as aii acceptable way of Iiiniting family size. The growth in birth-control use and the decline in fertility in developing countries is closely tied to expanding educational opportunities for women. Increased literacy, of course, makes it easier for women to get reliable information on contraception, whereas the demands of education, particularly at the post-secondary level, cause women to delay marriage and childbearing. Sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest fertility rates, has the lowest female education levels. Some developing countries, sucti as China and Cuba, are already below the replacement level of 2.1 children, in large part because of modern birth-control methods. Countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt and India should reach this goal within the next decade or so. At the other extreme are nations such as Pakistan and Nigeria, which are unlikely to reach the replacement rate for several decades to come. Few women in these high-fertility countries use modern contraception. Traditional methods of birth control (not included on the map) include the rhythm method, coitus interruptus and prolonged breast-feeding; the last suppresses ovulation. Worldwide, 7 percent of all women of reproductive age who are married (or in nonmarital unions) depend on these practices, which are far less reliable than most current methods. They are widespread in several countries, such as Peru, where the rhythni method is popular, and Turkey, where coitus interruptus is prevalent. -Rodger Doyle

Female Illiteracy Worldwide

In the history of literacy, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century was a major turning point, for it gave women the first wide-scale opportunities to learn reading and writing. One premise ofthe radical Protestants, including Lutherans and Calvinists, was that everyone was entitled to read the Bible. Nowhere was this premise more apparent than in Lutheran Sweden, where in the late 17th century, a highly successful literacy program began to promote the Christian faith. The ability of women to read was vital because they were seen as the primary teachers of the young. The Protes- tant commitment to female literacy was evident in other places, such as Puritan New England, where women were more literate than their sisters in Europe. The biggest surge in female literacy in Western countries occurred in the 19th century. By 1900 the overwhelming majority of women in several countries, including the U.S., France, England, and the more advanced parts of Germany and the Austrian empire, could read and write. Virtually all West- ern women are now literate, although a substantial minority have no more than a rudimentary skill, such as the ability to pick out facts in a brief newspaper article. (A 1992 study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 17 percer.t of U.S. adults have only this rudi- mentary ability; 4 percent are unable to read at all. Illiteracy in the U.S. is probably no higher than in western Europe.)

Literacy statistics for most non-Western countries are problematic because there is no uniform worldwide method of measurement. Nevertheless, the map above is useful for high-lighting some gross differences. The current major problem areas are in Asia, Africa and Central America. As in Western countries of earlier days, availability of schooling and the traditional notion about the sexual division of labor-the assignment of women to domestic tasks-are probably important factors. Another element, which applies particularly to Asia and Latin America, is the strict supervision by male family members of women's activities outside the home, which tends to inhibit the education of women. In almost all developing countries, women tend to be less literate than men, a circumstance illustrated in the chart below, which shows rates by gender for five typical countries. Literacy among women is associated with low fertility, low infant mortality and better health af children. One trend that may portend a new literacy pattern is the growing education of women in Western countries, particularly in the U.S., where since 1980 they have increasingly outnumbered men on college campuses. This trend, which apparently reflects the rising aspirations of women, a decline in gender discrimination and the burgeoning need for women to earn a living, suggests that women may eventually surpass men in literacy sophistication. -RodgerDoyle