Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 365–396 | Cite as

Demographic pressure, economic development, and social engineering: An assessment of fertility declines in the second half of the twentieth century

  • Patrick Heuveline


Concerns over the prospects of explosive demographic growth led to concerted efforts to engineer fertility reductions in the developing world, while skeptics argued that economic development was the best way to hasten fertility decline. Now that fertility declines have occurred in many countries can either side claim victory? Or was demographic pressure simply self-regulated by links between mortality and fertility changes? Using country-level data and a methodology inspired by a series of seminal articles by Preston, I assess the impact of economic change on both fertility and mortality and the independent effect of mortality on fertility between the 1960s and the 1990s. Aggregating country-level estimates into six regional population projections from 1950 to 2000, I translate these impacts on demographic variables into population size impacts. Although economic development accounted poorly for either mortality or fertility changes, the prevailing population growth was not that different from the growth predicted had economic development alone influenced demographic trends. The main reason appears to be an association between mortality and fertility levels that offset the initial effects of mortality declines outpacing economic growth. Together, the effect of economic change on both mortality and fertility declines and the effect of mortality on fertility predicted reasonably well actual population size in year 2000, suggesting only a modest influence of any additional factor.

Economic development Family planning programs Fertility decline Mortality decline Population growth 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alter, G. (1992). Theories of fertility decline: A non-specialist's guide to the current debate, pp. 13–35 in J. R. Gillis, L. A. Tilly& D. Levine (eds.), The European experience of declining fertility, 1850-1970: The quiet revolution. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Bairoch, P. (1992). Du tiers-monde aux tiers-mondes: Convergence et clivages, Population 47(6): 1485–1504.Google Scholar
  3. Banister, J. (1987). China's changing population. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Berelson B., Anderson, R., Harkavy, O., Maier, J., Mauldin, W. P.& Segal, S. (1966). Family planning and population programs: A review of world development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bogue, D. J.& Tsui, A. O. (1978). Declining world fertility: Trends, causes, implications, Population Bulletin 33(4). Washington: Population Reference Bureau.Google Scholar
  6. Bogue, D. J.& Tsui, A. O. (1979). A reply to Paul Demeny's ‘On the end of the population explosion', Population and Development Review 5(3): 479–494.Google Scholar
  7. Bongaarts, J. (1994). The impact of population policies: Comment, Population and Development Review 20(3): 616–620.Google Scholar
  8. Bongaarts, J. (1995). The role of family planning programs in contemporary fertility transitions, Working Papers, No. 71. New York: The Population Council.Google Scholar
  9. Bongaarts J., Mauldin, W. P.& Philips, J. F.. (1990). The demographic impact of family planning programs, Studies in Family Planning 21(6): 299–310.Google Scholar
  10. Bongaarts, J.& Watkins, S. C. (1996). Social interactions and contemporary fertility transitions, Population and Development Review 22(4): 639–682.Google Scholar
  11. Bonneuil, N. (1997). Transformations of the French demographic landscape, 1806-1906. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  12. Caldwell, J. (1997). The global fertility transition: The need for a unifying theory, Population and Development Review 23(4): 803–812.Google Scholar
  13. Cannan, E. (1895). The probability of a cessation of the growth of population in England and Wales during the next century, The Economic Journal 5: 505–515.Google Scholar
  14. Cleland, J.& Wilson, C. (1987). Demand theories of the fertility transition: An iconoclastic view, Population Studies 41(1): 5–30.Google Scholar
  15. Cohen, B.& Montgomery, M. R. (1998). Introduction, pp. 1–38, in M. R. Montgomery& B. Cohen (1998).Google Scholar
  16. Crenshaw, E. M., Ameen, A. Z.& Christenson, M. (1997). Population dynamics and economic development: Age-specific population growth rates and economic growth rates in developing countries, 1965 to 1990, American Sociological Review 62(6): 974–984.Google Scholar
  17. Davis, K. (1948). Human society. New York: Macmillian.Google Scholar
  18. Davis, K. (1956). The amazing decline of mortality in underdeveloped areas, American Economic Review 46(2): 305–318.Google Scholar
  19. Davis, K. (1963). The theory of change and response in modern demographic history, Population Index 29(4): 345–366.Google Scholar
  20. Demeny, P. (1979a). On the end of the population explosion, Population and Development Review 5(1): 141–162.Google Scholar
  21. Demeny, P. (1979b). On the end of the population explosion: A rejoinder, Population and Development Review 5(3): 495–504.Google Scholar
  22. Demeny, P. (1988). Social science and population policy, Population and Development Review 18(3): 451–47.Google Scholar
  23. Durand, J. (1958). World population trend and prospect, pp. 27–37, in P. M. Hauser (ed.), Population and World Politics. The Free Press of Glencoe.Google Scholar
  24. Ehrlich, P. (1968). The population bomb. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  25. Feeney, G.& Feng, W. (1993). Parity progression and birth intervals in China: The influence of policy in hastening fertility decline, Population and Development Review 19(1): 61–101.Google Scholar
  26. Galloway, P. R., Lee, R. D.& Hammel, E. A. (1998). Infant mortality and the fertility transition, pp. 182–226, in M. R. Montgomery & B. Cohen (1998).Google Scholar
  27. Greiling, W. (1954). Wie werden wir Leben? Ein Buch von den Aufgaben unserer Zeit. Düsseldorf: Econ-Verlag.Google Scholar
  28. Guo, S. (1996). Determinants of fertility decline in Shanghai: Development or policy?, pp. 81–96, in A. Goldstein & W. Feng (eds.), China: The many facets of demographic change. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  29. Heuveline, P. (1999). The global and regional impact of mortality and fertility transitions, 1950-2000, Population and Development Review 25(4): 681–702.Google Scholar
  30. Hirschman, C. (1994). Why fertility changes, Annual Review of Sociology 20: 203–233.Google Scholar
  31. Hodgson, D. (1983). Demography as social science and policy science, Population and Development Review 9(1): 1–34.Google Scholar
  32. Hodgson, D. (1988). Orthodoxy and revisionism in American demography, Population and Development Review 14(4): 541–569.Google Scholar
  33. Hodgson, D. (1991). The ideological origins of the Population Association of America, Population and Development Review 17(1): 1–34.Google Scholar
  34. Hodgson, D.& Watkins, S. C. (1997). Feminists and neo-Malthusians: Past and present alliances, Population and Development Review 23(3): 469–523.Google Scholar
  35. Keyfitz, N. (1968). Introduction to the mathematics of population. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  36. Keilman, N. (1998). How accurate are the United Nations world population projections? pp. 15–41, in W. Lutz, J. W. Vaupel& D. A. Ahlburg (eds.), Frontiers of population forecasting, A supplement to Population and Development Review, vol. 24. New York: Population Council.Google Scholar
  37. Kuate Defo, B. (1998). Fertility response to infant and child mortality in Africa with special reference to Cameroun, pp.254-315, in M. R. Montgomery & B. Cohen (1998).Google Scholar
  38. Landry, A. (1934). La révolution démographique: études et essais sur les problèmes de la population. Paris: Librairie du Recueil Sirey.Google Scholar
  39. Lavely, W.& Freedman, R. (1990). The origins of the Chinese fertility decline, Demography 27(3): 357–367.Google Scholar
  40. Lutz, W.& Scherbov, S. (1992). Sensitivity of aggregate period life expectancy to different averaging procedures, Population Bulletin of the United Nations 33: 32–46.Google Scholar
  41. Mason, K. O. (1997). Explaining fertility transitions, Demography 34(4): 443–454.Google Scholar
  42. Montgomery, M. R.& Cohen, B. (eds.). (1998). From death to birth: Mortality decline and reproductive change. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  43. Notestein, F. W. (1945). Population-the long view, in Theodore W. Schultz (ed.), Food for the world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  44. Palloni, A. (1990). Fertility and mortality decline in Latin America, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 510: 126–144.Google Scholar
  45. Potts, M. (1997). Sex and the birth rate: Human biology, demographic change, and access to fertility-regulation methods, Population and Development Review 23(1): 1–39.Google Scholar
  46. Preston, S. H. (1975). The changing relation between mortality and level of economic development, Population Studies 29(2): 231–48.Google Scholar
  47. Preston, S. H. (ed.). (1978). The effects of infant and child mortality on fertility. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  48. Preston, S. H. (1980). Causes and consequences of mortality declines in less developed countries during the twentieth century, pp. 289–329, in R. A. Easterlin (ed.), Population and economic change in developing countries. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  49. Preston, S. H. (1985). Mortality and development revisited, Population Bulletin of the United Nations 18: 34–40.Google Scholar
  50. Preston, S. H., Heuveline, P.& Guillot, M. (2001). Demography: measuring and modeling population processes. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  51. Pritchett, L. H. (1994). Desired fertility and the impact of population policies, Population and Development Review 20(1): 1–55.Google Scholar
  52. Raftery, A. E., Lewis, S. M.& Aghajanian, A. (1995). Demand or ideation? Evidence from the Iranian marital decline, Demography 32(2): 159–182.Google Scholar
  53. Shryock, H. S.& Siegel, J. S. (1975). The methods and materials of demography. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  54. Stolnitz, G. J. (1955). A century of international mortality trends: I, Population Studies 9(1): 24–55.Google Scholar
  55. Summers, R.& Heston, A. (1991). The Penn world table (Mark 5): An expanded set of international comparisons, 1950-1988, Quarterly Journal of Economics 106(2): 327–368.Google Scholar
  56. Szreter, S. (1993). The idea of demographic transition and the study of fertility change: A critical intellectual history, Population and Development Review 19(4): 659–701.Google Scholar
  57. Szreter, S.& Garrett, E. (2000). Reproduction, compositional demography, and economic growth: Family planning in England long before the fertility decline, Population and Development Review 26(1): 45–80.Google Scholar
  58. Thompson, W. S. (1929). Population, American Journal of Sociology 34: 959–975.Google Scholar
  59. Tsui A. O., Hermalin, A I., Bertrand, J. T., Knowles, J., Stover, J.& Stewart, K. J. (1993). Evaluating family planning program impact: Needed initiatives on a persisting question, Evaluation Project Working Papers WP-O–08.Google Scholar
  60. United Nations (1958). The future growth of world population, Population Studies No.28. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  61. United Nations (1999). World population prospects: The (1998) revision. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  62. Whelpton, P. K. (1928). Population of the United States, 1925-1975, The American Journal of Sociology 31: 253–270.Google Scholar
  63. Whelpton, P. K. (1936). An empirical method for calculating future population, Journal of the American Statistical Association 31: 457–473.Google Scholar
  64. Whyte, M. K.& Parish, W. L. (1984). Urban life in contemporary China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  65. Wilson, C.& Airey, P. (1999). How can a homeostatic perspective enhance demographic transition theory, Population Studies 53(2): 117–128.Google Scholar
  66. Wilmoth, J. R.& Ball, P. (1992). The population debate in American popular magazines, 1946-1990, Population and Development Review 18(2): 631–668.Google Scholar
  67. Woytinsky, W. S. (1958). World resources in relation to population, pp. 46–75, in Philip M. Hauser(ed.), Population and World Politics. The Free Press of Glencoe.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Heuveline
    • 1
  1. 1.Population Research CenterNORC & the University of ChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations