Fertility rates cut in half since 1950 — but the population is still growing

(CNN) The world’s total fertility rate has been cut in half since 1950, but the population is still rising, according to a study published Wednesday in The Lancet.

The total fertility rate — or the average number of children a woman would have if she lived through all her reproductive years — declined from 4.7 live births in 1950 to 2.4 in 2017.

“As women have gotten more educated and participate more in the workforce and they get access to health services, no surprise, fertility has come down tremendously,” said study author Dr. Christopher Murray , director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

While total fertility rates fell across all 195 countries and territories in the data, they were split roughly down the middle between those below replacement level and those above, Murray said.

“Replacement” describes the total fertility rate “at which a population replaces itself from generation to generation, assuming no migration,” which comes out to about 2.05 live births, the authors say.

In countries that want to boost fertility rates, the creation of financial incentives for families, including parental leave, has been shown to have a small effect, Murray said.

When it comes to fertility rates, Kiarie said that the UN goals “are about the ability for people to have the number of children they want,” as well as when and with whomever they choose.

What often gets lost in discussing fertility statistics and population numbers, Kiarie said, is the focus on individual people, their desires and how countries can empower them to achieve those goals.

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