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Fresh thinking on fertility.

United Nations. Department of International Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division
Populi. 1983; 10(1):13-35.

Levels and trends of fertility throughout the world during the 1970s are assessed in an effort to show how certain factors, modifications of which are directly or indirectly specified in the World Population Plan of Action as development goals, affected fertility and conditions of the family during the past decade. The demographic factors considered include age structure, marriage age, marital status, types of marital unions, and infant and early childhood mortality. The social, economic, and other factors include rural-urban residence, women's work, familial roles and family structure, social development, and health and contraceptive practice. Recent data indicate that the rate at which children are born into the world as a whole has continued its slow decline. During 1975-80 there were, on the average, 29 live births/1000 population at mid year. During the preceding 5-year period, there occurred annually about 32 live births/1000 population. This change represents a decline of 3 births/1000 population worldwide and approximately 14 million fewer births over a period of 5 years. This change in the global picture largely reflects the precipitous downward course that appears to have characterized China's crude birthrate. There are marked differences in fertility levels between developing and developed regions. In developing countries, births occurred on the average at the rate of 33/1000 population during 1975-80, compared with only about 16/1000 in the developed nations. Levels of the crude birthrate varied even more among individual countries. The changes in levels and trends of fertility may be attributed to many of the factors noted in the Plan of Action as requiring national and international efforts at improvement. The populations of the less developed and more developed regions as a whole aged somewhat during the decade of the 1970s. In both regions, the number of women in the reproductive ages increased relative to the size of the total population, but the change was more marked in the less developed regions. Recommendations in the Plan of Action as to establishment of an appropriate minimum age at 1st marriage subsume existence of too low an age at 1st marriage mainly in certain developing countries. The Plan of Action calls for the reduction of infant mortality as a goal in itself using a variety of means. Achievement of this goal might also affect fertility. Recent findings concerning the influence of social, economic, and other factors upon fertility levels and change are summarized, with focus on topics highlighted in the World Population Plan of Action.

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