What Factors Affect the Total Fertility Rate, or TFR? - Population Education (2023)

By Andrea Moran | September 24, 2020

This post will examine four factors that influence the total fertility rate (TFR), including a female’s age when she has her first child, educational opportunities for females, access to family planning, and government acts and policies that affect childbearing.

The global total fertility rate, or average number of children a woman is estimated to have in her life, has been falling since the 1960s. Today, the total fertility rate (or TFR) is half of what it was five decades ago. But while women overall are having fewer children than in the past, total fertility rates still vary greatly among countries. Why, when, and if a woman has a child involves many complex societal, economic, and political factors.

What Factors Affect the Total Fertility Rate, or TFR? - Population Education (1)

Brief Explanation of Total Fertility Rate (TFR)

The total fertility rate is expressed as a number of children per woman. The global TFR in 2020 is 2.5. However, total fertility is a hypothetical number – it is not the counted number of children a woman actually has, or will go on to have, in her lifetime. Instead, the total fertility rate is a projection based on fertility rates of women who are currently in their reproductive years (age 15-44). Using that data, the total fertility rate estimates how many children a woman entering her reproductive years might have as she progresses through her childbearing years.

Let’s take a look at four of the main factors that influence total fertility rates around the world.

What Factors Affect the Total Fertility Rate, or TFR? - Population Education (2)

Marriage and the Age at Which Females Have a First Child

When women marry earlier in life, they tend to have children at an earlier age, and more children over their lifetime. This increases total fertility rates. Globally, the age of a woman’s first marriage varies, but brides in higher-income countries generally marry later. Child marriage also persists around the world, with one in five females married before their 18th birthday, according to UNICEF.

(Video) Total Fertility Rate and Other Factors Affecting Population Growth

The human rights abuse of child marriage contributes to higher total fertility rates in many places, although child marriage has been declining. On the other hand, women who marry later tend to have fewer children over their lifetime. We currently see this in the U.S. – where women are delaying marriage and having children later. As fewer women in the U.S. are married during their “peak fertility years,” the TFR has declined.

What Factors Affect the Total Fertility Rate, or TFR? - Population Education (3)

Educational Opportunities for Women and Girls

Women who have more formal education tend to have fewer children. As more women graduate, many delay childbearing as they enter the workforce and find more opportunities for employment. This results in fewer children over their reproductive years

An example can be found in Nigeria’s former University Primary Education program, which generously funded education and expanded access to free primary education throughout the country from 1976-1981. An analysis of that program found that it increased female educational attainment by two years, while fertility rates for the under 25 age segment dropped by 16 percent. The findings from the study suggest that increasing education attainment by one year can reduce fertility by 0.26 births. In the U.S., as more women complete advanced degrees and marry later, they are also having children at a later age, and fewer children overall. The U.S. total fertility rate is currently 1.7.

Studies have shown that the more education the mother has, the lower the risk of losing the child before their fifth birthday. Lower risk of child morality also correlates with women having fewer children.

What Factors Affect the Total Fertility Rate, or TFR? - Population Education (4)

(Video) AICE Geo H1.1 Factors Affecting Fertility

Algerian midwife measures a woman’s blood pressure in a post-partum visit.

Access to Voluntary Family Planning

Greater access to family planning correlates with lower total fertility rates. This is because family planning helps give women greater control over when to have children, how many children to have, and whether to have children at all. In 2019, 44 percent of women of childbearing age around the globe were using a modern method of contraception.

However, there are currently 270 million women of reproductive age around the world with an unmet need for family planning, meaning they want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraception. There are many barriers to accessing voluntary family planning including awareness, geography, available healthcare resources in an area, social stigmas and religious, cultural, and social influences.

The UN emphasizes that increasing the participation of men in family planning is an important step, along with simultaneous female empowerment, reducing violence against women, and strengthening female rights and access to educational and employment opportunities.

Government Acts and Policies

Government policies aimed at pulling the strings on population – to either increase or decrease a country’s population – can have a significant impact on a total fertility rates. Government acts around childbearing range from voluntary-based programs to outright abuses of human rights and dignity through coercive measures.

Some government acts aim to slow population growth, and many countries have successfully reduced fertility rates through voluntary measures. Iran, for example, saw a significant decrease in TFR through voluntary programs. By promoting universal health care, widespread family planning information and services, gaining support from religious leaders and implementing improvements in female literacy and education, Iran’s fertility rate dropped from 7 to 2 children per woman between 1986 and 2016.

(Video) AP Env Sci Topic 3.7 Total Fertility Rate

China used non-voluntary, draconian measures to forcibly reduce fertility with their One Child Policy, enacted from 1979 to 2015. As the name implies, only one child was allowed per family, with some exceptions, with fines or even forced abortions for violators. When China enacted the program in 1979, the total fertility rate was 2.7. Under the strict policy, TFR decreased to around 2.1 in the 1980s, and today, it’s near 1.5. Now, with an aging population and fewer working-age people, Chinese academics have issued grave warnings to the government to address this imbalance.

Pro-natalist policies, or policies aimed to promote births, are often used in response to population declines or when fertility drops below “replacement level.” In some European countries, the total fertility rate has dropped to around 1.5 and in Taiwan, the total fertility rate has reached 1.2, the lowest in the world. In many places with declining populations, governments have promoted incentives for couples to have children to offset future demographic imbalances. Pro-natalist government policies range from financial payments for having children and more childcare benefits, to newborn baby “starter boxes.” Denmark’s “Do it for Denmark” campaign is one example, along with Singapore’s 1988 campaign which encouraged the public with slogans like “have 3 or more!” through posters and ads.

Why is Total Fertility Rate Important?

Knowing the TFR, along with mortality and migration projections, helps us estimate how a population might grow, shrink, or stabilize over time. Data on the total fertility rate can also help predict other demographic shifts, such as future age distributions within a population. If a TFR is dropping, it may mean there will be a larger population of older adults in the future, assuming other factors remain stable. Governments and international organizations use the total fertility rate to forecast these population changes and help plan for services, education, and other societal needs.

Image credits: Children born per woman, 2019 by Our World in Data is licensed under CC BY 4.0; Indian bride (Raj Rana on Unsplash); Graduate (ID 118170821 ©Milkos, Dreamstime.com); Algerian midwife (istock.com/brunoat)

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(Video) Factors affecting fertility.

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FAQs

How does total fertility rate affect population? ›

Assuming no net migration and unchanged mortality, a total fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman ensures a broadly stable population. Together with mortality and migration, fertility is an element of population growth, reflecting both the causes and effects of economic and social developments.

What factors affect birth rates and fertility rates? ›

But education, race, religion, and many other social, economic, and cultural factors also influence childbearing. While modern technology has expanded the age span in which women can have children, few women give birth before age 15 or after age 50.

What are the factors that affect fertility rates in developing countries? ›

In developing countries children are needed as a labour force and to provide care for their parents in old age. In these countries, fertility rates are higher due to the lack of access to contraceptives and generally lower levels of female education.

Which factor helps determine the fertility rate of a group of people? ›

The consumption rate, or the rate at which food and resources are consumed, is a large influential factor on a group's fertility rate.

What is population TFR? ›

Total period fertility measures the number of children a woman would have in the course of her life if the fertility rates observed at each age in the year in question remained unchanged.

What are 5 factors that affect fertility rate? ›

Factors Affecting Fertility
  • Age.
  • Previous Pregnancy.
  • Duration of subfertility.
  • Timing and Frequency of Sexual Intercourse.
  • Lifestyle Factors.
  • Weight.
  • Smoking.
  • Caffeine.

What factors affect TFR? ›

This post will examine four factors that influence the total fertility rate (TFR), including a female's age when she has her first child, educational opportunities for females, access to family planning, and government acts and policies that affect childbearing.

What are 4 factors that affect population growth? ›

When demographers attempt to forecast changes in the size of a population, they typically focus on four main factors: fertility rates, mortality rates (life expectancy), the initial age profile of the population (whether it is relatively old or relatively young to begin with) and migration.

What causes a decline in fertility rates quizlet? ›

Terms in this set (5)

The most important reason for the decline in births is the education of women and how they are choosing to focus on their career rather than being a mother.

Why is the fertility rate decreasing? ›

For the last 70 years, fertility rates have decreased worldwide, with a total 50% decline. Reasons include women's empowerment in education and the workforce, lower child mortality and the increased cost of raising children.

What is fertility in population studies? ›

The fertility rate at a given age is the number of children born alive to women of that age during the year as a proportion of the average annual population of women of the same age.

How do you calculate TFR total fertility rate? ›

The total fertility rate (TFR) is the sum of the age-specific birth rates of women in five-year age groups multiplied by five in this example. (Single year or ten-year cohorts or other age groupings can be used. National TFR's are published using five-year Intervals and, therefore, we also use them for comparability.)

Which of the following factors is the most important in terms of establishing the fertility rate? ›

Which of the following factors is the most important in terms of establishing the fertility rate? The number of children that a woman decides to have.

How do you describe TFR? ›

According to the Population Reference Bureau, Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is defined as, “the average number of children a women would have assuming that current age-specific birth rates remain constant throughout her childbearing years.” Simply put, total fertility rate is the average number of children a woman would ...

How is the total fertility rate TFR defined quizlet? ›

The total fertility rate (TFR), sometimes also called the fertility rate, period total fertility rate (PTFR) or total period fertility rate (TPFR) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime.

What is the total fertility rate quizlet? ›

Total fertility rate is the average number of children a woman would have if she expenend the current age-specific fertility rates through her life time, and she were to servive through child birth.

What are three possible causes of low total fertility rates? ›

Instead it is being put down to three key factors: Fewer deaths in childhood meaning women have fewer babies. Greater access to contraception. More women in education and work.

What is the major reason for high total fertility rates? ›

The reasons for this shift toward later childbearing are many. The primary reason is that women are attaining higher educational levels than in previous decades. Within developing countries, the age of first birth and the interval between births increases as a woman's educational status increases.

How does fertility rate affect the economy? ›

Fertility rate decreases when child mortality is low, and is weakly dependent on GDP. As fertility rates fall, GDP increases, and as GDP increases, child mortality falls.

How education affects population growth? ›

Many scholars and policymakers noted that high levels of educational achievement were associated with more moderate rates of population growth, suggesting that important opportunities for alleviating population pressures might be found in ensuring greater access to education, particularly for females.

What is a major factor affecting population growth rate? ›

The two main factors affecting population growth are the birth rate (b) and death rate (d). Population growth may also be affected by people coming into the population from somewhere else (immigration, i) or leaving the population for another area (emigration, e).

What are 3 effects of population growth? ›

Rapid growth has led to uncontrolled urbanization, which has produced overcrowding, destitution, crime, pollution, and political turmoil. Rapid growth has outstripped increases in food production, and population pressure has led to the overuse of arable land and its destruction.

How does fertility rate affect the economy? ›

Fertility rate decreases when child mortality is low, and is weakly dependent on GDP. As fertility rates fall, GDP increases, and as GDP increases, child mortality falls.

How lower birth rates affect the population? ›

The problem with low fertility is that it reduces population size not at all ages but only among the young. Low fertility produces an age structure that creates a momentum for future population decline, a situation that must be stopped at some point if the population is to be demographically sustainable.

How do fertility rates compared to overall population rates of the world? ›

How do fertility rates compare to overall population rates of the world? Fertility rates are dropping, but the overall human population is increasing. How is information on age structure and sex ratios useful to demographers? Most people in population A are pre-reproductive age.

How does migration and fertility mortality affect population? ›

Fertility, mortality and migration are principal determinants of population growth. Population change depends on the natural increase changes seen in birth rates and the change seen in migration. Changes in population size can be predicted based on changes in fertility (births), mortality (deaths) and migration rates.

What are the causes of high fertility rate? ›

Factors associated with increased fertility
  • Intention.
  • Very high level of gender equality.
  • Fertility preference.
  • Religiosity.
  • Intergenerational transmission of values.
  • Marriage and cohabitation.
  • Maternal support.
  • Social support.

What are the causes of low fertility rate? ›

Developed (and richer) countries have lower fertility rates. Undeveloped countries usually have higher fertility rates. The causes are lack of access to contraceptives, lower levels of female education, and employment opportunities.

Why does fertility rate decrease as a country develops? ›

Instead it is being put down to three key factors: Fewer deaths in childhood meaning women have fewer babies. Greater access to contraception. More women in education and work.

How do you reduce TFR? ›

They are include: eliminate obstacle to marriage, reduction in marriage age, allocate adequate resources for women especially during pregnancy and lactation, development and strengthening the social security system, and prevention and treatment in line with reproductive health and childbearing and so on (4).

What causes a decline in fertility rates quizlet? ›

Terms in this set (5)

The most important reason for the decline in births is the education of women and how they are choosing to focus on their career rather than being a mother.

What happens if the fertility rate decreases? ›

When the fertility rate falls below replacement level, the population grows older and shrinks, which can slow economic growth and strain government budgets.

What are the 4 factors that affect population growth? ›

When demographers attempt to forecast changes in the size of a population, they typically focus on four main factors: fertility rates, mortality rates (life expectancy), the initial age profile of the population (whether it is relatively old or relatively young to begin with) and migration.

What are the five factors that affect population? ›

Factors that affect population growth are:
  • Age of organisms at first reproduction.
  • How often an organism reproduces.
  • The number of offspring of an organism.
  • The presence or absence of parental care.
  • How long an organism is able to reproduce.
  • The death rate of offspring.
23 Mar 2020

How does education affect population growth? ›

The research reinforces earlier findings that the level of formal education achieved by women is, in most cases, the single most important determinant of population growth. More educated women generally have fewer children, better general health, and higher infant survival rates.

Which is a major factor affecting population growth rate? ›

The two main factors affecting population growth are the birth rate (b) and death rate (d). Population growth may also be affected by people coming into the population from somewhere else (immigration, i) or leaving the population for another area (emigration, e).

What is fertility in population studies? ›

The fertility rate at a given age is the number of children born alive to women of that age during the year as a proportion of the average annual population of women of the same age.

What are the causes of population change? ›

There are three components of change: births, deaths, and migration. The change in the population from births and deaths is often combined and referred to as natural increase or natural change.

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