Is Indian fertility collapsing?

From Sanjeev Sanyal:

The TFR for rural areas stands at 2.5, but that for urban India is down at 1.8 — marginally below the readings for Britain and the US. An important implication of this is that India’s overall TFR will almost certainly fall below replacement as it rapidly urbanises over the next 20 years.

There continue to be wide variations in the fertility rates across the country. Readings for the southern states have been low for some time, but are now dropping sharply in many northern states.

Tamil Nadu has a TFR of 1.7 but so do Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar continue to have the country’s highest TFR at 3.1 and 3.5 respectively, but these are also falling steadily.

Demise of the Bhadralok Interestingly, West Bengal has the lowest fertility in the country with a TFR reading of 1.6. The level for rural Bengal is 1.8 but is a shockingly low 1.2 for the cities. This is one of the lowest levels in the world and is at par with Singapore and South Korea.

Do read the whole thing.  The net Indian TFR is about 2.3, which given gender imbalance and infant and child mortality is already about replacement rate.


Of course, due to the phenomenon of population momentum, if fertility dropped to the replacement level from tomorrow onward, the total population would continue to grow for 40 or more years.

According the United Nations' "2015 Revision of World Population Prospects" the population of India has grown from 871 million in 1990 to 1,311 million in 2015. By 2050, 34 years from now, the UN's experts expect India's population to reach 1,705 million. Looking into the distant future, they project India's population reaching a maximum of 1754 million in 2070, and then falling to 1,660 by 2100.

The UN's forecasts assume low immigration, but of course without rigorous border enforcement, hundreds of millions of Indians would no doubt decamp for other countries over this time span.

Of course, India is relatively less of a concern than Sub-Saharan Africa. The UN demographers only recently discovered they had underestimated African population and fertility due to shoddy recordkeeping in African countries, so the UN's latest forecasts for Africa are little known at present, but they are definitely eye-popping. According to the UN, the population of sub-Saharan Africa grew from 491 million in 1990 to 962 million in 2015. Their best guess is 2,123 million in 2050 and 3,934 million in 2100.

Obviously, however, the population of sub-Saharan Africa isn't going to octuple between 1990 and 2100. Either A) Africans will learn to control their own fertility, B) suffer horrific Malthusian disasters or C) migrate by the billions to other continents, turning Europe into a banlieue of Africa.

The enormously important phenomenon of "population momentum" is a little complicated to understand, but try thinking of it from a grandparent's perspective. Imagine two neighbors comparing notes on who has more grandchildren. The one who lives on the north side of the street says, "My children each have two children in their families."

The neighbor who lives on the south side of the street replies, "So do mine."

The northern neighbor says, "Then you must have four grandchildren, just like me."

The southern neighbor laughs, "No, I have eight grandchildren! See, you only had two children, so you have four grandchildren. But I had four children, so I have eight grandchildren."

Although the population of Africa has expanded by 2x in the last 25 years there has been a gradual improvement in the quality of life for the average African (this is especially true when you exclude the Sahel and other French speaking parts of Africa). Wars are down from the highs of the 1990s. Famines are getting more rare. The last one was in 2011 in Somalia. Governance has improved as the sophistication of African societies has grown too. (The last time a lieutenant drove up to the presidential mansion and took over the country, a typical event in the early days after colonization, occurred in the tiny nation of Gambia in 1994.)

Why then Steve are you absolutely convinced that Africans will self destruct in a spectacular disaster when they have managed to improve despite a huge leap in population over the last 25 years? Is it because you loathe Africans and are certain based on your racial animus towards those people that they will screw up?

"(The last time a lieutenant drove up to the presidential mansion and took over the country, a typical event in the early days after colonization, occurred in the tiny nation of Gambia in 1994.)"

The quality of governance in many African countries probably has improved since the 1990s but this tidbit isn't quite true and tends to mislead. The island nation of Comoros experienced a coup in 2001 while Equatorial Guinea is still being ruled by one of the most repressive dictators in the world who seized power in a coup in 1979.

It's laughably false. Wikipedia has a list:

You can like Africans as people and still feel pretty confident that massive population growth is a bad trend. Population growth is a bad trend in general on a planet of limited resources, but particularly so on a continent that has never supported large, dense populations.

So the last famine in Africa was five, count 'em, five years ago and therefore worrying about explosive population growth there is unwarranted? This comment seems almost self-refuting.

Also, it's worth asking the question: if there's been a gradual improvement in standards of living in Africa over the last 25 years with rapid population growth, how much higher would standards of living be today if fertility had instead been just above replacement levels during that period? People would have more disposable income, more free time, and more $ to invest in education/healthcare for the children they did have, no?

"Although the population of Africa has expanded by 2x in the last 25 years there has been a gradual improvement in the quality of life for the average African."

Is this true? Life expectancy in most of these countries has been stagnant at low levels. In South Africa it is six years less than in 1990.

TP says: "Is it because you loathe Africans and are certain based on your racial animus towards those people that they will screw up?"

This is a good example of why so few people in the West are even aware of this onrushing massive global problem of the sub-Saharan population explosion: being aware of the recent UN population projections marks you out as a Bad Person, a hater, a demonic racist, a witch.

Who needs that?

Obviously, as we've seen in 2015, people who can afford smartphones and tracksuits are more likely to claim asylum in the West than the truly impoverished.

The UN's prediction of 3 billion more Africans by the end of the century means that, short of an ideological revolution in the West, Florence will turn into Ferguson and Barcelona into Baltimore.

Well, posting links to white-supremacy sites like VDare sure doesn't help any.

How much of that improvement is due to outside effort (financing, tech transfers, special services, willingness to accept problematic surplus population under flimsy excuses etc) which are contingent on the developed world retaining the capacity and willingness to expend resources in this manner? And this is different from the usual self-interested actions of a country trying to catch up from behind, where it gives value for value and muscles in on the developing country racket. Some of these countries have to be dragged by kicking and screaming into a state of functionality, by more NGO workers and Western implants than there ever were colonial administrators, and with, often times, worse results.

Who was trying to solve Ebola? Who is trying to solve Zika now? In neither of these cases will the answer be the main beneficiaries.

"turning Europe into a banlieue of Africa"

Oh the joy!!!

They'll experience the cultural enrichment of Somalian "cusine". LOL

How about Ethiopian?

Shall we discuss the wonders of English cuisine?

Sour bread with assorted collection of unidentified animal intestines and vegetable paste? Oh, the wonders and variety of that "cuisine"!

Europeans will be positively shocked at the delightment.

What's it with you and cuisine? Did you get tapeworm from eating "exotic" food and have since been waging war (or ridicule) on any cuisine that's foreign to you, especially those that come from poorer parts of the world?

Ethiopian food is fantastic, what is even wrong with you

Why not D) continue to muddle along with gradually reducing poverty and more urbanisation? You could make a similar argument (indeed people did) back in the 1970's when Indian and African populations were much smaller now, that they were heading to disaster and would be starving to death by the 2,000s. But it did not happen - instead technology improved such that Indians and Africans are now better fed and better off more than they have ever been in their history.

As someone pointed out sometime ago - the Netherlands have one of the highest density of populations in the world, but people don't come back from Holland aghast at the teeming Dutch starving to death.

Well if Africa becomes like the Netherlands that will be wonderful, but I think that would take more than gradually reducing poverty.

Yeah, for one thing, we have to stamp out witchcraft beliefs!

Racism and intolerance for sexual minorities too. Good thing the State Department has made it one of its missions to do so.

"starving to death", people always say this. Aren't we supposed to think at the margin?

They were damn right to be concerned. All of Africa's problems now would be much more tractable with 1/4 as many people around.

Which problems would be more tractable?

How about the flood of refugees via Libya?

Or more charitably: every natural or external resource (oil and diamonds, fish in the lake and elephants for tourists, MSF volunteers and aid dollars) would be spread 4x thicker. These primary things are still a big deal in most of Africa.

Empirical evidence does not suggest that increasing population density correlates with problems, in fact the opposite is true. As the US for instant has got denser it has got richer. Same for Europe. Remember the reason that Africa now has a much higher population than say 50 years ago is because it can - people are not dying as much in simple terms. Its not because before they will all very restrained in terms of the number of babies they had and all of a sudden they have let go that restraint. So increasing wealth=long life.

Americans were richer than Europeans forever, basically because land was plentiful and thus cheaper. Likewise the plague left its survivors significantly better off.

Europe did get richer as its population grew, historically, but the causality is mostly the other way. The amazing thing about the industrial revolution was that it produced wealth so fast that it couldn't all be gobbled up by population growth, this never happened before.

Yeah I'm sure once they hit 4B people all their problems will be solved

The general rule of thumb on the Internet is that when people decry population growth, what they mean is 'too many brown people', not 'too many people.' Human minds are a fantastic resource, and more of them is better.

the Netherlands have one of the highest density of populations in the world

Which brings up the question: Is it possible for part of the world to be overpopulated and the world to not be overpopulated? I think at conceivable levels it is not.

The concept of overpopulation depends on carrying capacity, which is a function of both natural and artificial factors. The Netherlands might not be everyone's cup of tea, but is not overpopulated per se, to my mind. Africa already is and growth is barely keeping up with population growth, despite being 6 times larger than Europe and only 1.5 times as populous. Remember what it's population used to be in the 1950s. When you have infrastructure for productive agriculture, food refrigeration and distribution, environmental protection, social services etc etc, a larger population will not mean that you are overpopulated.

In 1973, Jean Raspail wrote a novel, The Camp of the Saints, predicting a million Third Worlders descending upon Europe. In 2015 it came true.

It would seem like a more prudent and humane course to start encouraging family planning in SubSaharan Africa.

Steve - when was the last time you visited Europe? It is really still a very nice place and not a third world litter strewn ghetto by any means. Sure there are challenges associated with immigration but you make it sound like the world has fallen apart in Europe.

Well, I live in it and I'd rather not wait until it goes to hell to try to fix things, especially since the longer we wait, the more likely it is that we will not recover and that it will end in suffering and blood that could have been avoided. "The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils". Someone else, not Powell, said that reactionaries are people who see a problem before its effects are felt, a conservative is someone who sees it when the effects become visible, and a progressive sees a problem when it's too late, if he ever does see it.

But your question leads to another - is there some morally vetted percentage of a country you can allow to turn into a third world ghetto? Yes, almost all of it is still nice, and, as a tourist, you'll be given the good tour, with the fresh paint on. But you won't go to the self-segregated communities, to the zones de non-droit where state authority is non-existent etc. Nor will you be cognizant of subtle but distressing changes in risk perception, local culture, societal habits, taboos and rituals of interaction with your fellow citizens etc.

The article is critical of UN Projections:

"The United Nations predicts that world population will rise from the current 7.3 billion to 11.2 billion by the end of the century. However, fertility trends suggest that it will peak at a much lower level (perhaps closer to 9 billion) before declining."

Yep, the UN has always been a not-so-great source for future demographics. The 9 billion number is probably more correct. And I wonder all the time, what happens to global capitalism and growth rates when the whole world's demographics look like Japan?

Capitalism will be fine, but pseudo-Ponzi schemes like the US Social Security system and Medicare will be endangered.

Since the Japanese manage to take care of their ever increasing aged population, I guess the rest of the world will figure something out.

The article about India that Tyler links to reflects out of date assumptions about Africa. The UN was making similarly optimistic projections about rapidly moderating population growth a decade ago, but in this decade the UN's experts came to the horrifying understanding than many African governments had been undercounting their existing populations and fertility. Thus, the UN's revisions of 2013 and 2015 in their forecasts were staggering in the size of the increase they forecasted.

This sobering new picture of the ongoing African population explosion has recently been covered in leading publications like National Geographic and the WSJ, but awareness of this current reality has not penetrated widely into bien-pensant consciousness.

For example, here is a good WSJ article from last fall on the population explosion in Nigeria:

Obviously, the population explosion in Africa is related to horrifying events like 700 African economic immigrants drowning in the Mediterranean last weekend.

By most objective standards, the sub-Saharan population explosion should be considered at least as much of a concern as Climate Change, but it's much safer for one's career to sound the alarm about Climate Change, since it doesn't deal directly with questions of race.

Fortunately, Steve...there is a massive Sahara Desert acting as a natural barrier to the masses of Africans migrating into Europe.

Since they haven't yet mastered the art of road-building, car ownership, or any other form of rudimentary transportation besides walking, and they are unlikely to do so in the next 100-10,000 years...I think the Sahara presents a credible defense.

That's not what we see on the shores of Libya as we speak. Sub-Saharan Africans are headed for Europe.

Look, this is a huge problem for the world, but the best solutions are actually win-win:

1. Europe must enforce Australia-Israel style border security.

2. The rest of the world should encourage African women to get more educated and limit their fertility, both with economic subsidies, framk cultural messages, and with firmness that they won't be allowed to emigrate their way out of their selfish over-reproduction problem.

This is a win-win solution for sub-Saharan Africans and for the rest of the world.

It's going to be positively raining trillion dollar bills!

So is this good or bad trend? Why is it the richer the nation the less they can afford children?

Because we educate our children. And don't treat them as a source of labour. It's a lot easier to feed 10 children when they don't go to school and most of them work on the farm.

Large segment of people in rich nations is not willing to accept a precipitous decline in hedonism and future career prospects that comes with raising children, lasting two to three decades. Also, as societies grow richer, the amount of family members expected to participate in child-rearing dwindles rapidly - making the decline even worse.
An interesting article linked from 538:
"to offset a new mother’s time stress, her annual earnings would have to increase by about $66,000"

Monetarily they can easily afford children, but the lifestyle cost becomes much higher.

People tend to have fewer children when they are wealthier because the increased wealth is accompanied by decreased risk of child mortality. If there's a high risk of them dying, you have more children.

But perhaps more importantly, in poor societies, people worry more about who is going to care for them when they get old. So they have large families to make sure that someone will be around to support them.

In relatively rich countries this is not such a concern.

Children are a productive asset in farm families. Other sorts of endeavour, not so much. Affluence is inversely associated with the share of labor in agriculture.

Children are also a means of conquest, expansion and fulfilling your civilization's destiny to rule or supplant all others in time. The war of the womb is why the Gaza Strip has a very large fertility rate, despite everything you read about its difficulties. From 400 thousand to 2 million in the time it takes a newly born Westerner to complete his higher education and get out of his parent's house. Why would people compound those difficulties and the suffering of their children by having so many more, as well as signalling to the Israelis that any sort of one-state accommodation would screw them democratically in the long run? Eastern Europeans reacted to the uncertainty of life and economic collapse by reducing fertility to the minimum required to pass on genes and get the experience (as in one child). It's barely starting to recover, and Western influences and aspirations makes it unlikely that they will rebound enough to restore health to the society and stabilize it.

"Denied his permission to speak, Jan's wives could not describe what life is like for his sprawling dynasty, who all live together in a five-bedroom mud hut in the outskirts of Quetta in restive Balochistan province.

At least two of his children appear to support his goals, however, including his eldest child Shagufta Nasreen.

"A large family is like Allah bestowing a case of mangoes," the 15-year-old explained, adding that she hopes to go into medicine like her father.
Jan, who claims he is a qualified medical technician, runs an unregulated clinic where he treats people for minor ailments such as headaches, adding that as he is "serving humanity" he charges just 250 rupees ($2.30) per patient while providing his services to the poor for free.
Jan conceded that his needs may increase as his children grow and so is calling on the government to allocate funds for the food, education, and healthcare of his family -- a request that is unlikely to be fulfilled.

But Jan has faith. If the government does not listen, he said, he trusts in God to provide."

All of these answers are pretty much correct, there are multiple 'good' reasons why fertility declines with wealth, and it's why there's no stopping the trend. It will be interesting how far it goes before stopping, if it ever does. Or perhaps by then (100 years+) we will be uploading our 'selves' and kids become unnecessary? The far future is a weird place.

Time to marry an Amish person, an Orthodox Jew and a Mormon. Otherwise you will be gone Daddy, gone!

"Why is it the richer the nation the less they can afford children?"

The question reminds me that this week, after pools opened on Saturday, and children started up summer swim team practices, I passed a banner in Potomac, Maryland advertising an aquatic center for dogs.

It's actually a little more complicated than that. Strongly religious types will have children whether or not they have money. However, most rich nations these days have both decreasing religious authority and stronger states which push culture in a direction that results in fewer children.

Why is the term "fertility" used to describe reproductive rate? A normal woman, that can have children, is fertile, her "fertility rate" is 100%. However, her reproductive rate would be determined by just how many children she actually gives birth.

Or they could just call it the average number of children per 2 adult citizens.

Do we also have to find a new term for the literacy rate since a person either does or doesn't know how to read? Call it the learning-to-read rate?

@chuck: probably has something to do with the genocide of Native Americans

Urban housing is extremely expensive in India when compared to mean or median incomes. Urban India is possibly the worst place in the world in what Steve Sailer would call affordable family formation.

The Parsis of Bombay modernized a half dozen generations or so ago, became highly rich, but are now beset by extremely low fertility.

Is Zika having a big impact on birth rates in Latin America?

I found this but nothing concrete:

Birth control sale numbers?

In summary, when it comes to population growth in India, as in most places around the world, we can make out glimmerings of the light at the end of the tunnel. It won't be easy for India to raise the standard of living of its' hundreds of millions to the level of having, say, indoor plumbing, but we can plausibly foresee a future in which the population has at least stabilized.

Sub-Saharan Africa is now the world's great anomaly of population growth.

One reason for this is that white environmentalists have because so leery over the last 30 years of strongly recommending that blacks self-limit their fertility for fear of the usual charges of racism, such as we saw in the comments above.

But that simply suggests that the West needs a new, more realistic ideology, not that the population growth problem in Africa is hopeless. A revival of Western self-confidence could encourage the women of Africa to modernize their family lives along the paths seen in other parts of the world.

So the Africans need a continent-wide one child policy that's similar to the Chinese model but voluntary? Good luck with that.

Lots of countries around the world have seen their fertility rates drop to replacement levels. India isn't there yet, but it will be eventually.

The problem is sub-Saharan Africa. Until this decade, it wasn't understood just how big of a threat African population growth is to global well-being because the UN's projections were based on incompetent counting by African governments. As African governments have gotten better at censuses, the magnitude of the problem facing the world has become evident.

But so far there have been little action in the West, in large part because of the ideological supremacy of being, at all costs, perceived as pro-black.

An economist would say that, if they are not willing to implement measures, whatever they may be, then they should bear the costs of their fertility - no more aid, no more Western NGOs running around like headless chicken wasting years off their volunteers' lives (and reducing their fertility rate) for little payoff, no more immigration, no more making Ebola vaccines when they stumble into viral reservoirs. Maybe this will not only get across the point of fertility reduction, but also spur institutional development so they can take care of themselves and "earn" their population growth. The West would have to resign itself to the destruction of endangered habitats in Africa and that the poaching of animals for bushmeat and other materials will result in the destruction of numerous species. But, hey, tourism can be a thing, and learning how to exploit their environment differently will be a part of the learning process. With trade and investment, we can help them, but not in the way we have so far. It takes a rich country to be aware enough to protect its environment properly and absorb the related costs. The primeval forest of Europe were not cut down by today's post-industrial societies, but by the pre-industrial people who saw no choice. Should any country in Africa have the governmental authority and capacity to impose a one-child policy, that country twill have proven itself the contender for "most likely to succeed", not because of the lower birthrate, thought it helps, but because of the proof that their political culture allows for Chinese-like rapid development from the top-down.

Here we are in 2016: we can look at India and see that the family planning ideology of the distant past is _finally_ succeeding.

But we look at sub-Saharan Africa and we announce: What has worked for the rest of the world would be wrong for Africa because racist. Poorly educated Africans from huge families should overrun the entire planet Earth because it would be racist to not prefer some degree of diversity in the human race.

Or that the Indians are finally getting rich enough thanks to urbanization that they are voluntarily restricting their family sizes, just like happened in just about every other country that reached a certain wealth point. When/if this happens with African's remains to be seen - but certainly their genetically close relations in rich North America don't seem to be out-breeding the rest of the country.

Well, think about it like this - with all the Black-on-Black violence and the high abortion rate, the percentage of indigenous Blacks in the US population is growing veeeeery slowly, percentage-wise, reaching around 13%. In the meantime, European-Americans have gone from being 90% of the population to 63%(inaccurate because it includes Arabs etc) in less than two generations, with the process accelerating..

'overall TFR will almost certainly fall below replacement as it rapidly urbanises over the next 20 years.' A tenable hypothesis iff certain Indian politicians and religious leaders hadn't grasped that demographic changes could affect their own rents.

The Catholic Church in Kerala, where Christians are a significant minority, explicitly backs pro-natalism for purely political reasons. Other minorities take recourse to Scripture- babies are warriors of the Faith in a demographic war.

Ceteris Paribus, Welfare Provisions which historically haven't been pro-natalist are likely to become so if 'separating equilibria' are not reinforced.

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