October 16th, 2012 | Posted in Gender, Marriage/Family
by Kate Gilles, policy analyst, International Programs
A direct consequence of prenatal sex selection is that fewer girls are born relative to the number of boys born. In some countries, the situation is becoming more extreme, and dramatic reductions in the numbers of girls born have led to a “scarcity” of women. Some argue that these reductions can have positive outcomes for women because following the law of “supply and demand,” their value will increase as their numbers shrink. In fact, the opposite may prove to be true.
The problem with the “supply and demand” argument is that it overlooks the gender norms and social realities of sex selection. In patriarchal societies where sex selection is practiced, men hold the power. A woman’s life is more often controlled by her father, brother, or husband than by the woman herself. In these settings, a woman’s value is perceived not in terms of her worth as an individual but as a family possession or asset. Under these conditions, a shortage of women does not miraculously lead to greater freedom and empowerment for women, but rather to increased subjugation—and potentially—abuse, as men tighten their control over an increasingly valuable commodity.
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May 17th, 2012 | Posted in Income/Poverty, Marriage/Family
by Paola Scommegna, senior writer/editor
The loss of jobs, homes, and investment wealth that characterized the U.S. “Great Recession” (2007 to 2009) also took a personal toll. A number of researchers at the Population Association of America’s (PAA) 2012 annual meeting presented studies documenting the recession’s social impact.
Retirement Postponed: Following the Great Recession, 40 percent of older Americans decided to postpone retirement, reported Brooke Helppie McFall of the University of Michigan. The greater the loss, the more likely people were to delay their retirement, she found.
Her study is the first to link actual data on household wealth just before and after the downturn to the retirement plans of a nationally representative sample of Americans age 50 and older, using the Health and Retirement Study along with the Cognitive Economics Study.
The typical older household lost about 5 percent of its total wealth between the summers of 2008 and 2009, she found. The average older person would need to work between 3.7 and 5 years longer than they planned in order to make up the money they lost, according to her analysis.
But very few people told interviewers that they intended to work long enough to recoup their entire loss, instead trading financial security for leisure, McFall reported. The typical person surveyed who planned to work longer because of the recession only planned to work about 1.6 years longer than they had originally planned. Not included in the survey were people who were already laid off or those who had already retired.
More Depression Among Older Americans: Lauren Hersch Nicholas of the University of Michigan and Melissa McInerny and Jennifer Mellor of the College of William and Mary used the Health and Retirement Survey to explore the health consequences of the Great Recession on older Americans. Although many studies link higher incomes to better health, no other studies have examined the impact of sudden financial loss on health, they noted.
“Respondents with stock market wealth interviewed right after the crash reported significantly worse self-rated health than respondents interviewed pre-crash,” they write. They also found that post-crash, stock owners had more symptoms of depression and were 4 percentage points less likely to report feeling happy in the previous two weeks.
Loss of wealth is different from job loss, Hersch noted. An event such as becoming unemployed can have both positive and negative impacts on health. While the financial stress may bring physical symptoms, the additional free time may contribute to improved health. Job loss allowed more adults to be available to provide care for aging parents, she said.
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February 15th, 2012 | Posted in Marriage/Family, Population Basics
by Carl Haub, senior demographer
Natural decrease improves in Russia. Russia continued its recovery in 2011 from its dramatic natural decrease (births minus deaths) of past years, but not from a rising birth rate. Natural decrease in 2011, just reported by the national statistics office GOSKOMSTAT, fell further to -131,208 in 2011 from -241,340 in 2010. It had reached an eye-popping low point of -958,532 in 2000. But births in 2011 were basically the same as in 2010, 1,793,828 vs. 1,789,623. It was the decline in deaths from 2,030,963 in 2010 to 1,925,036 in 2011 that resulted in a rosier natural decrease. Interesting development.
That’s a lot of marriages in one day. The day one gets married in India depends upon astrology. Marriages are heavily concentrated during a propitious day or days. But I recently learned that back on Nov. 28, 2011, there were 60,000 marriages in Delhi (The Indian Express, Nov. 27, 2011). I have been there when there were about 18,000, but 60,000 is truly phenomenal. Hindu and Sikh wedding ceremonies take place over a period of days and are lavish affairs requiring a tent venue for the groom to prepare and some type of wedding hall. That’s in addition to white horses, brass bands, and fireworks for the baarat when the groom processes to the wedding venue with his family. Wish I’d been there!
And, yes, a bit more about Taiwan. Taiwan, which recorded the lowest total fertility rate (TFR — the average number of children would bear in her lifetime if the birth rate of a particular year were to remain constant) in recent world history, if not in all history, at 0.9 children per woman during 2010, the unlucky year of the Tiger. In 2011, the Rabbit year, births jumped to 196,627 from 166,886 in 2010. While the Rabbit year is not particularly auspicious, it seems some couples waited until the Tiger Year had ended to have a child. The Dragon year began on January 23, 2012 and is a very auspicious year. That will be followed by the Snake year, which is not particularly auspicious for births. So, are we are likely to see a bit of a “baby boom,” but only for a while? The Taiwanese government is very worried about the population aging consequences of such a low birth rate.
Census news. Canada has reported the early results of its May 10, 2011 census: 33,476,688. Population growth was larger from the 2006 to 2011 censuses in western provinces and territories, such as Yukon (11.7 percent) and Alberta (10.8 percent). Nova Scotia has the slowest growth, an increase of only 0.9 percent in the period. Nationally, the country’s census counts increased by 5.9 percent between the censuses, the highest rate among the G8 countries. According to Statistics Canada, the count was about 1 million less than the population previously estimated for July 1, 2011. Following studies of both undercount and overcount, Statistics Canada suggests the higher precensal estimate continue to be used Canada will then base new population estimates on the results. In 2001, the net undercount was 2.99 percent and, in 2006, it was 2.67 percent. The improvement in 2006 was due to an increase in overcounting which more than offset the increase in undercounting. The 2011 undercount study is scheduled for release in March 2013.
December 9th, 2011 | Posted in Marriage/Family, Youth
by Mark Mather, associate vice president, Domestic Programs
In the U.K., they are called NEETS, people who are “Not in Employment, Education, or Training.” In Spain and Mexico, they have been called Generation Neither-Nor. We have them in the United States too, and their numbers have increased since the onset of the recession—especially among men. A new report by PRB shows that the percent of young men ages 25 to 34 who are neither working nor attending school increased sharply between 2007 and 2010, from 14 percent to 19 percent. During the same period, the share of women who were not working and not in school remained steady at 26 percent. Part of this gender difference can be explained by women’s earlier age at marriage, compared with men.
Percent Distribution of Young Adults Ages 25-34 by School Enrollment and Employment
Status, 2007 and 2010
|School Enrollment, Employment Status
|In school, working
|In school, not working
|Not in school, working
|Not in school, not working
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey.
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October 17th, 2011 | Posted in Marriage/Family
by Eric Zuehlke, web communications manager
Just a quick plug for a couple of interviews with PRB’s senior visiting scholar Carl Haub on the decline in the U.S. birth rate since the onset of the recession: First, a CNN article from last week and an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered last Friday.
Historically, women have had fewer children during tough economic times, whether it was the Great Depression, the recession of the 1970s, or now. So what’s behind lower birth rates? Social changes play a large role, as in the 1970s. In the NPR interview, Haub says: “The birth rate really began dropping in the late ’60s. And I think most people believe that that was due to changing roles of women and the way, you know, what women saw as their future and as their role in life, certainly. We had Roe versus Wade in the early ’70s – 1973, I believe. And then we had the gas crisis, plus we had stagflation.”
But the single most important factor is the economy. Since 2007 (when the United States had the largest number of births in its history), the birth rate gone down significantly. Simply put, people aren’t confident in the future, and having a kid is a major investment ($227,000 — without including college tuition — according to some estimates). People can’t, or don’t feel they can, afford to have as many kids when jobs are scarce, incomes aren’t rising fast enough, college costs continue to outpace inflation, and the economic outlook remains uncertain.
If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve looked at this issue from many angles over the past couple of years:
August 2nd, 2011 | Posted in Marriage/Family, Population Basics
by Carl Haub, senior visiting scholar
Yes, more on the Taiwanese birth rate. (See my earlier blog post “Taiwan’s Birth Rate Lowest in Recorded History,” from Jan. 13, 2011.) The Year of the Tiger (Metal), which began on Feb. 14, 2010 ended on Feb. 3, 2011, giving way to the Year of the Rabbit (Metal). The Tiger Year is particularly inauspicious for births and many couples sought to avoid having a child. It is believed that babies born in Tiger years will have bad luck throughout their lives. During 2010, the country’s total fertility rate (TFR—the average number of children a woman would bear in her lifetime if the rate of childbearing of a particular year were to remain unchanged) dropped from 1.030 to 0.900, setting a world record low for a country. The Year of the Rabbit is basically birth-neutral, so some TFR recovery would be expected.
“Number of marriages, births double from last year.” So claimed Radio Taiwan International on its website this past July 17. Double? That would be news! The last time something like that happened, so far as I know, was from 1966 to 1967 in Romania when abortion was suddenly made illegal, catching women by surprise. The Singapore Straits Times of July 8 headlined “Taiwan births rise for first time in 11 years,” and then went on to point out that the government has offered “cash gifts and other childcare and fertility subsidies,” implying that is the reason for the rise in births. No mention of the Tiger Year. So what exactly did happen in Taiwan?
Monthly Births in Taiwan, 2009 – 2011
Source: Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics, Executive Yuan, R.O.C. (Taiwan), "Monthly Bulletin of Statistics."
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January 13th, 2011 | Posted in Marriage/Family, Population Basics
by Carl Haub, senior demographer
Used under Creative Commons by Coolmitch
Taiwan’s government has just announced that the country’s total fertility rate (or TFR, the average number of children a woman would bear in her lifetime if the birth rate of a particular year were to remain unchanged) in 2010 was the lowest in its history at 0.91 children per woman. It’s the lowest rate any country has ever reported in history. The announcement itself is a bit of a projection since births have been officially reported only through November 2010. The country’s TFR had declined to 1.1 in 2005 and had remained there through 2009.
The rather spectacular drop in 2010 was due to an additional reason: 2010 is the Year of the Tiger on the Chinese calendar, beginning on February 14. The Tiger year is particularly inauspicious for births since Tigers, while seen as brave, are also seen as headstrong and possibly difficult to work with. It is quite common for employers to consider the zodiac of job applicants and Tigers may be avoided so that parents have some concrete reasons to avoid having a child in Tiger years. While there has been a lot of concern over the demographic situation for some time, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has now called for measures to increase the birth rate to be raised to the “national security level.”
Births for the 12-month period ending November 2010 dropped to 169,884 from 191,310 in 2009 but there is some hope for those wishing to raise the birth rate. The Year of the Dragon is a favorable year for births and is two years after the Tiger year in the zodiac cycle. In 1998, the last Year of the Tiger, births dropped to 271,450 from 326,002 the year before. But, in 2000, the following Dragon year, births jumped back up to 305,312. A similar pattern had been seen in previous cycles. Nonetheless, the sharp decline in births, regardless of which year it might be, from the late 1990s to the present is very obvious. Another helpful sign is that the number of marriages increased in 2010 by about 20,000 over 2009, a year known as a “widow’s year.” The effect of astrological concerns, common in many other Asian countries, also extends to the more precise timing of births. For that reason, Taiwan has a rather high proportion of caesarean section births, about 30 percent.
Couples in Taiwan have avoided having children due to the high cost of living, the short supply of affordable government daycare, the very high cost of private daycare, and policies which have tended to support low-income families, not families in general. The President has ordered the responsible ministries to come up with a workable plan to support young families – and to do it by the end of this month.
January 5th, 2011 | Posted in Gender, Marriage/Family, Youth
by Alexandra Hervish, policy analyst, International Programs
On Dec. 1, 2010, the United States Senate unanimously passed the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act.
On Dec. 16, 2010, the United States House of Representatives rejected that same bill.
Although Conor Williams of The Washington Post referred to it as “an easy vote”, the House blocked the proposed bill in a 241-166 vote. The bill would have required the U.S. Government to develop a strategy to reduce the practice of child marriage (with the ultimate goal of eliminating it entirely) and integrate prevention efforts into existing development programs. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the legislation would cost approximately $67 million over five years to implement.
Despite the disappointing outcome, efforts to end child marriage have garnered broad bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans alike. Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senator Olympia Snow (R-Maine) sponsored the bill in the Senate while Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) championed the legislation in the House of Representatives. This congressional commitment to protect the health and rights of millions of girls around the world remains strong, even after yesterday’s vote.
At the same time, there is strong global leadership in the fight to eliminate child marriage. The Elders—an independent group of global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela who work together to address major humanitarian issues—continues to educate and engage national leaders, donors, and global institutions about the issue of child marriage. So far, The Elders have worked with CARE, Equality Now, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), International Women’s Health Coalition, NoVo Foundation, Population Council, Tostan, UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Foundation, Vital Voices, and The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, framing child marriage as a global development issue. This type of collaborative effort can have a real impact at the international, national, and local levels and hopefully will lead to the re-introduction and ratification of the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act next year. Indeed, the future looks promising.
August 3rd, 2010 | Posted in Marriage/Family, Reproductive Health
by Farzaneh (Nazy) Roudi, program director, Middle East and North Africa
Iran stands out for lowering its fertility in a short time without coercion or abortion. The total fertility rate dropped from 6.6 births per woman in 1977 to 2.0 births per woman in 2000, and to 1.9 births per woman in 2006. The decline has been particularly impressive in rural areas where the average number of births per woman in one generation dropped from 8.1 births per woman to 2.1 births per woman.
But now President Ahmadinejad wants to reverse this demographic trend and boost population growth by offering families a financial incentive to have more children. Will he succeed? I don’t think so. Here’s why:
- Today, Iranians’ decision on whether to bring a child into this world is more complicated than just involving a bit of financial incentive. Under this new plan each child born in the current Iranian year, which began March 21, will receive a $950 deposit in a government bank account. They will then continue to receive $95 every year until they reach 18. Parents will also be expected to pay matching funds into the accounts. Then, children can withdraw the money at the age of 20 and use it for education, marriage, health and housing. But Iranian parents, with their daily economic struggle to make the ends meet, know that this amount is not going to go far. This reminds me of when I was in Iran about 10 years ago, a few months after Dr. Marandi, former Iranian minister of health, received UNFPA’s annual award for his contribution to improving maternal and child health in Iran. When I told relatives and friends about Dr. Marandi’s award and the drop in fertility, they all had a similar reaction. They would laughingly say, “Why did HE receive the award? You only need to go to a grocery store and check prices and you can see for yourself why families don’t want to have more children.” And today, prices are even higher than 10 years ago.
- While my friends and relatives made a legitimate point about economic hardships Iranian families were going through, one could not deny the government’s success in expanding its basic health care uniformly and universally. The Iranian constitution stipulates that the government is responsible for providing basic health care (which includes family planning services) and education to all its citizens for free. One would expect that family planning services will remain as part of basic health care package.
- Most modern methods of family planning are produced in the country, making Iran pretty much self-sufficient. For example, the only condom factory in the region is in Iran which exports condoms to other countries in the region and Eastern Europe. And since private businesses are involved in the production of contraceptives, one would expect them to continue their operations and to promote their sales.
- Iranian women and men have gotten used to exercising their reproductive rights and would expect to be able to continue to do so. Today, 74 percent of married women ages 15 to 49 practice family planning; 60 percent use a modern method; one-third of the modern contraceptive users have relied on permanent method—female or male sterilization.
- Iranian families have learned to value quality of children over quantity of children. Small family size—one child or two children—is now the norm. In today’s Iran, three children is considered a large family. This reminds me of the reaction of my Egyptian colleague (a medical doctor working in population and reproductive health) with whom I traveled with to Iran. She said that something has happened to the Iranian psyche that has not yet happened in Egypt—Egyptians also have universal access to family planning services, but their fertility has plateaued at around 3 births per woman for about a decade.
Iranians have been progressive in reproductive rights. Iranian women live a modern lifestyle that is often not seen in Western media that show women covered head to toe in black, as if they belong to centuries ago. Elementary school enrollment is universal; the gender gap in secondary school enrollment is almost closed; and more girls are enrolled in universities than boys. And more important, the educational system is modern and only a very small percentage of students attend religious schools—contrary to what is happening in some neighboring countries. In short, Ahmadinejad’s argument—rejecting family planning as a Western and secular plot – is not going to be bought by Iranians. Despite continued international economic sanctions and political isolations, secular ideas are pouring into the country through satellite TVs and the Internet. Iranians have the second-highest rate of Internet use in the Middle East and North Africa region, after the United Arab Emirates.
While I don’t see much reason for Ahmadinejad’s new policy to influence country’s overall fertility, the crude birth rate in Iran is going to increase for a decade or so, as the baby boomers go through their childbearing years. So one should not rush to judgment and attribute future increases in the number of births to the success of Ahmadinejad’s policy. Today, a significant portion of Iran’s population are in their 20s and early 30s (prime ages to marry and have children), born during the high-fertility era around the 1979 Islamic revolution and 1980s.
Yes, Iran is facing an aging population and the country needs to prepare for it. This may well be in the mind of Ahmadinejad as he encourages women to have more children. But one may also see other motives: boosting his image as a populist; trying to psychologically calm people about current economic crisis in the country; and trying to push women back to stay home, raising children and not participating in public life. Iranian women who have achieved their reproductive rights are at the forefront of democracy movement in Iran, demanding more rights. Will Ahmadinejad be able to change all this by throwing money at people? No, I don’t think so.
January 8th, 2009 | Posted in Marriage/Family
by Carl Haub, senior demographer
There is a good bit of evidence that hard economic times cause people to delay having a child or not have one altogether, circumstantial as that evidence might be. In the United States, there were two notable 20th Century baby “busts,” one during the Great Depression that bottomed out at a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.1 children per woman in 1936 and another during the inflationary “oil shock” decade of the 1970s when the TFR set an all-time low record of 1.7 that still stands. In Sweden, rather wild swings in the TFR seem to follow trends in employment and in Eastern Europe, the bottom fell out of the TFR as the breakup of the Soviet bloc destroyed economies.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics (click to view full size).
So, will it happen this time? In the 1970s, there were quite a few things going on which makes a direct connection between the economy and TFR decline a bit murky. The TFR had been dropping rapidly since the late 1960s, possibly connected with the feminist movement as women looked to careers beyond the traditional nurse, teacher, and secretary. And Roe vs. Wade, which confirmed the legality of abortion on demand, passed in a number of states in Jan., 1973. The Depression decline might seem more clear, but the TFR had been falling throughout the Roaring Twenties.
Perhaps the current period will provide a better laboratory. The TFR has been relatively steady at 2.0 to 2.1 for about a decade and there have been no major events such as Roe vs. Wade. Unemployment is rising and the airwaves flood our living rooms and cars with one bit of scary news after another. Bad news travels fast and furiously these days, much more so than in the 1970s and 1930s.
For more, see articles from The Chicago Tribune, American Public Media’s Marketplace, and the Psychology Today blog.