by John Hawkins | June 20, 2008 11:50 am
As most of you probably know, birth rates tend to decline as a society becomes more prosperous and in Europe, things have gotten so bad that sans immigration, those societies would go into a death spiral.
There are a plethora of reasons why this has happened and one of them is apparently soap operas,
In 1960, the average Brazilian woman had 6.3 children. By 2000, the fertility rate was down to 2.3. The decline was comparable to China’s, but Brazil didn’t have a one-child policy. In fact, for a while it was even illegal to advertise contraceptives.
Many factors account for the drop in Brazilian fertility, but one recent study identified a factor most people probably wouldn’t consider: soap operas.
…Using census data from 1970 to 1991 and data on the entry of Rede Globo into different markets, the researchers found that women living in areas that received Globo’s broadcast signal had significantly lower fertility. (And yes, the study did control for all sorts of factors and addressed the concern that the entry of Globo might have been driven by trends that also contribute to fertility decline. I’ll spare you the gory econometric details.) Additionally, people in areas with Globo’s signal were more likely to name their children after novela characters, suggesting that it was the novelas specifically, and not TV in general, that influenced childbearing.
Maybe it’s because of my psychology background, but the question of why birth rates decline is one that has always fascinated me. After all, making more babies is something that is genetically programmed into us. So, screwing that up takes some doing =D
That being said, I think there are several different factors that play into birth rates dropping in advanced societies.
* People used to have lots of children so that the kids could take care of them when they became old. Now, because of government programs, there is less need for that.
* The cost of colleges, medical care, daycare, bigger houses, etc., has gone up so much that children have become a much greater financial burden than they used to be.
* The prevalence of birth control and abortion is certainly a factor. There are a lot less “accidents” than there used to be and since you’re legally allowed to kill your “accidents,” that must play a big role.
* There are more entertainment options, which means that there is just a lot more to do both for single people and married couples. That means pursuing the opposite sex or working on making a baby may still be an attractive option, but there are many more alternative activities than there used to be to fill your time.
* As Christianity declines in a society, the birth rate declines as well. Perhaps there is less pressure to “be fruitful and multiply.”
* As women have become more involved in the work force, they’ve become less interested in families and more interested in their careers.
What do you think the biggest factors in the decline of the birth rates in advanced societies are?
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