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Why Is Fertility Lower in Wealthier Countries? The Role of Relaxed Fertility-Selection

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  • Lonnie W. Aarssen

Abstract

Lower fertility in wealthier countries can be explained in evolutionary terms by three key factors: (i) higher fertility in poorer countries-an evolutionary consequence of many generations of intense "fertility-selection" favoring innate behaviors promoting high fertility, especially in males; (ii) the empowerment of women in wealthier countries that serves to reduce fertility directly-an evolutionary consequence of selection favoring an inherent preference for lower fertility in females, combined with release from the evolutionary effects of a long history of male control over female fertility; and (iii) offspring access in wealthy countries to public health care, welfare, and other social services, which combined with inherited wealth for offspring, virtually eliminates competition between families for the resource needs of offspring. The combined consequences of (ii) and (iii) mean that the fertility-selection so prevalent in poor countries is relaxed in wealthy countries, thus allowing random genetic drift to produce an increased relative frequency of innate behaviors promoting low fertility and discontentment with high fertility. Copyright 2005 The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Lonnie W. Aarssen, 2005. "Why Is Fertility Lower in Wealthier Countries? The Role of Relaxed Fertility-Selection," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 31(1), pages 113-126.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:31:y:2005:i:1:p:113-126
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    Cited by:

    1. Peng Yu, 2006. "Higher Education, the Bane of Fertility? An investigation with the HILDA Survey," CEPR Discussion Papers 512, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    2. Solveig Cunningham & Kathryn Yount & Michal Engelman & Emily Agree, 2013. "Returns on Lifetime Investments in Children in Egypt," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 699-724, April.
    3. Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, 2007. "Social mobility and fertility," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 17(15), pages 441-464, December.
    4. David E. Bloom & David Canning & G√ľnther Fink & Jocelyn E. Finlay, 2008. "The High Cost of Low Fertility in Europe," PGDA Working Papers 3208, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.

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