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THE SINGAPORE MAGAZINE OF RESEARCH,
TECHNOLOGY AND EDUCATION
About Innovation
COVER STORY:
The Great Fertility Divide
Strong cultural divisions associated with issues of fertility explain why some developed countries do not have the problem of low birth rates.
by Peter MCDONALD

round 1980, no country on this list had a fertility rate less than 1.5 births per woman, below which level fertility is widely understood to be unacceptably low. In 2002 all the countries in Group 1 had fertility rates above 1.5, and all the countries in Group 2 had rates below 1.5. When surveyed by the United Nations in both 1997 and 2003, each country falling below 1.5 stated that its fertility rate was "too low." Why have Group 1 countries sustained fertility rates above 1.5 whereas Group 2 countriesí fertility rate has fallen?

First, all the Group 2 countries fall into one of three distinct categories - Southern European, German-speaking, or East Asian - whereas Group 1 comprises Nordic countries and all English-French- and Dutch-speaking countries, thus demonstrating a strong culture divide. Second, explanations of very low fertility fall into two broad dimensions or commonalities - gender and economic distinctions. The cultural split and, by implication, the fertility division between Group 1 and Group 2 correlate strongly with the gender dimension and loosely with the economic dimension.

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