Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 575–583

The Surprising Global Variation in Replacement Fertility


  • Thomas J. Espenshade
    • Office of Population Research
  • Juan Carlos Guzman
    • Office of Population Research
  • Charles F. Westoff
    • Office of Population Research

DOI: 10.1023/B:POPU.0000020882.29684.8e

Cite this article as:
Espenshade, T.J., Guzman, J.C. & Westoff, C.F. Population Research and Policy Review (2003) 22: 575. doi:10.1023/B:POPU.0000020882.29684.8e


It is frequently assumed by the general public and alsoby some population experts that the value ofreplacement-level fertility is everywhere an averageof 2.1 lifetime births per woman. Nothing could befurther from the truth. The global variation inreplacement fertility is substantial, ranging by almost1.4 live births from less than 2.1 to nearly 3.5. Thisrange is due almost entirely to cross-country differencesin mortality, concentrated in the less developed world.Policy makers need to be sensitive to own-countryreplacement rates. Failure to do so could result infertility levels that are below replacement and lead tolong-run population decline. For example, the currentreplacement total fertility rate for the East Africa regionis 2.94. Lowering fertility to 2.10 would, under currentmortality conditions, result in a regional birthrate 29 percentbelow replacement.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003