Researchers Say There Has Been a ‘Remarkable Global Decline’ in the Number of Women Who Are Having Children


It’s hard to find anything cuter than a baby. While they may be messy at times and they may prevent their parents from getting as much sleep as they’d like, babies make up for it in so many ways. If you’re a parent, you know how much a baby changes your life in a truly remarkable way.

Back in the 1950s, moms on average used to give birth to about 4.7 children. But the times, they have changed, and more than we thought. A recent study looked at how many children have been born in every country from 1950 through 2017. The numbers were basically cut in half with the worldwide average of births per woman plummeting from 4.7 to 2.4.

That 2.4 is an average though, and the bigger problem lies in countries where there aren’t even enough children being born to sustain the current population levels.

Let’s break this down. In order for parents to sustain the current population, each woman would need to have on average 2.1 children. The .1 is because it’s slightly more likely for women to give birth to boys than girls. In some countries, like Niger and Chad, this is not a problem as women are giving birth to an average of 7.1 and 6.7 children, respectively.

The countries where women tend to give birth to the fewest children are more developed countries like in Europe and the U.S., but the fewest births happen in Cyprus and Taiwan with an average of only 1 child being born per woman.

There are multiple reasons that we’re not having as many children today as we did in the past. Access to birth control is a big one. There are also more women who are in the workplace and who are prioritizing their careers. These are not bad things. In fact, they’re big successes that show just how far we’ve come.

Rachael Jacobs told the BBC, “I know now that we can survive on what we earn as a family and still go on holiday every year. If we had more than one child we couldn’t go on holiday. We’d rather give our daughter the best of everything than have multiple children that we can just about feed and clothe.”

Dr George Leeson, director of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, told the BBC, “Everything we plan for is not just driven by the numbers in the population, but also the age structure and that is changing, so fundamentally we haven’t got our heads around it.” He thinks that workplaces will have to change and that retirement might have to happen later in life.

How many children do you have? Does it surprise you that women are having fewer children than they used to?