Why Do Some Countries Have Such High Birth Rates?

Birth rates vary greatly between countries.
Birth rates vary greatly between countries.

5. Overview

To help readers understand global birth rate discrepancies and the complex conundrums high birth rates can produce, we have taken a look at the countries with the highest birth rates, and discussed the prominent trends and factors that most often contribute to this phenomenon worldwide. The United Nations typically measures maternal fertility of nations by using birth rate, defined by the number of births per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. At the mere mention of this phrase, ‘birth rate’, bureaucrats working in national planning and development around the globe will pause and take notice. This is understandable, considering many governments have waged relentless campaigns to try and control birth rates. Such campaigns have been considered to be effective remedies for reducing poverty at the household level, and by extension help foster economic progress on the national scale. Many countries, especially in the developed world, have seemingly won this battle. In fact, some have succeeded to such an extent that they have essentially changed course to actually encourage child birth to avoid problems associated with shrinking populations! More commonly, however, many countries in the developing world struggle to reign in high birth rates and the problems that they can cause by overextension of available resources. Surely, there have to be explanations as to why these countries have been less successful in reducing birth rates than their more well-developed counterparts.

4. Cultural Views On Children

Different societies view children differently. In some societies, children are viewed as a source of cheap labor while, in other societies, they are viewed as a source of physical and financial security for the elderly population, or even as blessings from the divine. Hence, many countries welcome newborns at all cost. Such cultural beliefs contribute significantly to high birth rates. It is not unusual to see certain societies encouraging child birth as a way of increasing military strength, especially in countries where civil insurrection is the order of the day. Historically, such instances have been the case in Mali, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and others.

3. Health Policies

Another factor that greatly contributes to high birth rates are a country’s health policies, which often tend to encourage child bearing. Health policies such as free access to maternity wards only serve to encourage high birth rates where they are offered. Countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, where the cost of maternity ward access is extremely low, appear almost as if they’re directly aiming to increase their birth rates. Such factors, coupled with a lack of proper and reliable birth control methods, or the inability or reluctance to use these methods, have helped ensure that these countries feature among those with the highest birth rates in the world.

2. Legal Provisions

It is no secret that legal institutions across much of the developing world strongly advocate against abortion. This generally implies that in situation where it may have been used as a means of birth control elsewhere, the contrary occurs. Conservative legislation regarding birth control have significantly contributed to the high birth rates seen in countries such as Afghanistan, Chad, and Somalia. In addition to making abortion illegal, there is also the aspect of the legal marriage age. Since a majority of these countries have not clearly defined this age, early marriage is rampant, further extending a woman’s child-bearing window and, subsequently, number of prospective offspring over their lifetime.

1. A Global Problem Without A Singular Answer

While these are the major factors leading to high birth rates in any given country, it is worth noting that these factors may not all be at play in any given country, and that other forces can influence birth rates as well. Regardless, each of these trends significantly contribute to the high birth rates witnessed in countries listed, and are among the first areas in need of addressing in efforts to resolve this serious problem.


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