January 11th, 2013 | Posted in Population Basics
by Carl Haub, senior demographer
The crude birth rate (births per 1,000 population) in India has continued its steady march downward, as seen in the 2011 rates reported by the country’s Registrar General. The 2011 rate was 21.8 births per 1,000 population, down from 22.5 in 2010 and 26.4 in 1997. This decrease is no small thing considering that the country is on its way to having the world’s largest population in about 10 years or less. India is one of only a few developing countries that conduct a continuous survey of vital events in the country. This Sample Registration System surveys 1.5 million households each month, recording births and deaths. The results are checked twice a year, showing us an unusual annual time series of rates, rare for a developing country.
Since the survey uses only a sample of households, annual changes are not always statistically significant, but in this case the birth rate trend is clearly downward. In 2010, the total fertility rate (TFR) was 2.51 and was likely slightly lower in 2011. The rate of natural increase—annual number of births and deaths minus any effects of immigration/emigration—is now down to 1.47 percent. That rate would double a population in size in 47 years if it were to remain constant, but that is highly unlikely. India has also made remarkable strides in lowering infant mortality, from 72 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1997, to 44 in 2011.
Births and Deaths in India, 1997 and 2011
|Births per 1,000 Population
||Deaths per 1,000 Population
Trends in two northern states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, are particularly important as those states have 100 million and 200 million people, respectively—and the highest TFRs of all states in India. In 2010, Bihar had a TFR of 3.7, and Uttar Pradesh, 3.5. These TFRs have declined, but will they decrease consistently to the two-child family or “stall” at some lower level? This is an important question, given that these two states make up nearly one-fourth of India’s total population.