The birth rate decline in developing countries

Outlook Agric. 1993;22(4):221-4. doi: 10.1177/003072709302200403.


PIP: Family planning programs historically have played an important role in providing information and counseling and supplying modern methods. Most programs are effective due to socioeconomic development and strong political support. Potential demand for services will be growing. This means that donor agencies must commit additional funding, and users must begin paying or paying more for contraceptives. Services and method choices need to be expanded, and quality of care needs to be improved. Three primary factors will impact on fertility decline: 1) the rate of social development, 2) the speed with which small family norms spread and contraception is adopted, and 3) the facility of private and public suppliers to meet contraceptive demand. Other factors influence reproductive decisions (women's roles and status, economic hardships or opportunities, religion, ethnicity, culture, and tradition). Contraceptive prevalence has increased from under 10% in the 1960s to 38% of all married, reproductive age women in the developing world, excluding China, which has contraceptive prevalence of 72%. Regional differences are wide. In Latin America, contraceptive use averages nearly 60% and ranges from over 50% in 10 countries and below 38% in Bolivia, Guatemala, and Haiti. Contraceptive prevalence is above average in Indonesia (50%), Sri Lanka (62%), and Thailand (68%) and just below average in Bangladesh (40%), India (45%), Philippines (34%), and Vietnam (53%). Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest prevalence, except for Zimbabwe (45%), Botswana (35%), and Kenya (27%). 80% of current users rely on modern methods. In most surveyed countries, 20-30% of married women have unmet demand. Fertility decline, unmet demand, and contraceptive use have all been affected by the diffusion of ideas about the use of family planning and the small family norm. Innovators are usually high status, educated women, who spread their views to other social groups or geographic areas. The spread can be rapid in countries with few cultural, social or economic barriers. Developing world birth rates have fallen since the 1960s from an average of six children to four in the 1990s, but a replacement level of 2.1 is needed to reach balanced growth.

MeSH terms

  • Birth Rate*
  • Communication*
  • Contraception
  • Contraception Behavior*
  • Demography
  • Developing Countries*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic*
  • Family Planning Services
  • Fertility
  • Health Planning*
  • Population
  • Population Dynamics
  • Population Growth*
  • Pregnancy*
  • Sexual Behavior