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Birth Rate

What Is It?

A country's birth rate refers to the number of live births per one thousand people, calculated over a one year period. It is often called the "crude birth rate," as it applies to the entire population, rather than to a subset such as women of childbearing age.

How Is It Calculated?

Birth rate is calculated by taking the number of live births in a year, dividing it by the total midyear population, and then multiplying the resulting number by 1,000 to arrive at the number of births per 1,000 people.

What Does It Mean?

The birth rate is one of the most basic and important measures in demography by illustrating the ratio between live births and overall population. It reflects fertility rates and provides insight into population growth. 

Birth rate also affects public policy and budgeting for education and health systems. It can impact the economy by altering the demographics of consumer markets, affecting the demand for housing, population in the workforce, and more.

Countries need to have a birth rate of at least 2.1 children per woman to sustain the population. Developed countries typically have a lower birth rate than developing countries.

  • declining birth rate suggests factors such as growing urbanization, increasing prosperity, increasing educational opportunities for women, growing female participation in the labor force, and improved access to contraception. Birth rates are declining globally, trending towards a lower-than-replacement rate. This has potential to create a situation in which there are not enough young people to support the economy and to care for an aging population. Governments must reevaluate their immigration, employment, and economic development policies to plan for challenges associated with demographic change. 
  • A rising birth rate is atypical globally but indicates an inversion of the factors above—namely, decreasing urbanization, reduced prosperity, fewer educational and employment opportunities for women, and reduced access to contraception. It also indicates an increase in religiosity, as procreation tends to be positively correlated with religious faith, as well as an increase in maternal and early childhood support.

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