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Decline and Prosper!

Changing Global Birth Rates and the Advantages of Fewer Children

Palgrave Macmillan

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  • Provides a balanced, evidence-based overview of global fertility in the past, present and future

  • Considers fertility from multiple perspectives including biological, economic, socio-cultural and evolutionary

  • Shows how fertility rates affect so many of the most important questions in the public arena today

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  • ISBN: 978-3-030-91611-4
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Table of contents (20 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xxxiii
  2. Introduction

    • Vegard Skirbekk
    Pages 1-11
  3. Measuring Fertility

    • Vegard Skirbekk
    Pages 13-26
  4. Contemporary Global Fertility

    • Vegard Skirbekk
    Pages 91-104
  5. More Education, Fewer Children

    • Vegard Skirbekk
    Pages 141-158
  6. Delaying Parenthood, for Better and for Worse

    • Vegard Skirbekk
    Pages 195-215
  7. Money Matters: The Economics of Fertility

    • Vegard Skirbekk
    Pages 247-263
  8. Fertility in the Aftermath of Disaster

    • Vegard Skirbekk
    Pages 265-284
  9. How Low Will It Go? Projecting Future Fertility

    • Vegard Skirbekk
    Pages 315-328

About this book

Globally, women are having half as many children as they had just fifty years ago. Why have birth rates fallen, and how will low fertility affect our shared future?

In Decline and Prosper!, demographic expert Vegard Skirbekk offers readers an accessible, comprehensive and evidence-based overview of human reproduction. Readers learn about the evolution of childbearing across different populations and how fertility is related to (changes in) our reproductive capacity, contraception, education, religion, partnering, policies, economics, assisted reproduction, and catastrophes. Readers will explore the future of family size and its impact on human welfare, women’s empowerment and the environment. Skirbekk argues that low fertility is on the whole a good thing, while recognizing the challenges of population aging and “coincidental” childlessness. A balanced, integrative examination of one of the most important issues of our time, Decline and Prosper! drives home the fact that we must ultimately adapt to a world with fewer children. This book will be invaluable to anyone who is interested in the far-reaching effects of global fertility, including researchers and students of demography, social statistics, medical sociologists, family and childhood studies, human geographers, sociology of culture, social and public policy.

Also includes a Foreword by Professor Sarah Hayford, Director of the Institute for Population Research, Ohio State University, USA.

Keywords

  • Fertility Rates
  • Demography
  • Population Dynamics
  • Social Statistics
  • history of fertility
  • Childlessness
  • Contraception
  • Parenthood
  • Political demography
  • Economics
  • Climate Change
  • Sustainability

Reviews

“As one concerned about the impact of low fertility rates on the cost of the U.S. Social Security program, I picked up “Decline and Prosper” with some skepticism.  But this comprehensive, thoughtful, and readable treatise makes a convincing case that the goal is not to hit a particular fertility target but to ensure that everyone has access to quality education, affordable and effective contraception, the financial resources, and the ability to decide whether and when to have a child.  Global fertility will continue to decline, and our current low fertility rates – despite government efforts – are unlikely to rebound.  That outcome is good for people – particularly women – and beneficial for the planet.  Yes, Social Security may cost more, but if we invest in our children the tradeoff will be worth it.  Read this book; it will change how you look at the world!” (Alicia H. Munnell, Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences, Boston College, USA)

“Reading this book is like taking a master class with Vegard Skirbekk as he shares fascinating social scientific research about the causes and consequences of changing fertility patterns around the world. Nearly every aspect of our global future will be shaped by fertility trends. As Skirbekk explains, fertility rates are influenced by a complex mix of biology, education, culture, technology and religion. This book should be read widely. In fact, I'd like to make it required reading for any newspaper columnist who wants to opine about fertility trends.” (Conrad Hackett, associate director of research and senior demographer, Pew Research Center, USA)

“With Decline and Prosper! Vegard Skirbekk has written a compelling book. He masterfully deals with an important but emotionally and a politically charged issue: the drop in fertility. From economics, to biology, sociology and of course demography (just to name a few), virtually all academic disciplines have discussed the issue. But often their approach is narrow, too narrow in fact to be useful. Skirbekk convincingly argues that the decline in fertility has multiple causes and understanding it and its consequences calls for a holistic approach. Summarizing existing evidence in a highly readable manner, he describes the reasons of the decline in fertility and does not shy away to draw policy implications and recommendations to adequately deal with the momentous consequences of an important human evolution” (Jean-Jacques Hallaert, Senior Economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF))

Decline and Prosper is the antidote we need to prevailing alarmism about population aging. Skirbekk moves us away from the dichotomy of “good” and “bad” consequences of low fertility towards a more nuanced understanding, grounded in evidence and aiming to promote data literacy. This book is a must-read summary for those hoping to understand a key driver of our aging world” (Jennifer D. Sciubba, Associate Professor of International Studies, Rhodes College, USA)

Decline and Prosper! is an excellent overview of the main theories and policy debates relating to human fertility. It provides a thorough historical and conceptual review of why people want children, and how education, religion or economic circumstances, affect those choices. Prof. Skirbekk reminds us that recent population ageing is not only driven by the dramatic decrease in fertility experienced by most countries, but rather increases in life expectancy matter importantly. The debate on population policy should not focus on how to increase fertility but on understanding how couples can achieve their goals. The book is accessible, dynamic and it includes a wealth of wonderful examples, quotes and figures which should made it enjoyable to a broad audience of readers beyond experts in the field.” (Alicia Adsera, Senior Research Scholar and Lecturer in Economics, Princeton University, USA)

“Skirbekk’s book is a welcome, comprehensive and refreshing take on one of the most pressing demographic issues of our time – low birth rates and shrinking populations in high-income countries. As opposed to the common doomsday scenarios that focus on population shrinking, Skirbekk turns the discussion on its head by focusing on the advantages and prosperity population shrinkage might bring. This book will appeal to a broad audience since it describes the inner workings of demographic research of fertility in an accessible manner but also contextualises it further across a wide range of topics and contexts. This impressive book covers biology, historical fertility research, demographic transitions, individual behaviour and consequences to the active role that governments can take in addressing fertility. It will soon become a must read for anyone interested in this topic” (Melinda Mills, Nuffield Professor of Sociology, University of Oxford, UK)

“Skirbekk sees declining birth rates as a natural progression of human civilization –  part of the demographic transition which started in Europe over 200 years ago and is flowing across the globe. As the health and education of populations improve, so they move from having large families to smaller ones, and this is good – because it places less pressure on our earth’s resources and slows the effect of climate change. As Skirbekk concludes, our own fertility choices impact not only our own lives, but also other people, other species and the environment. And we should all be invested in ensuring that everyone has access to quality education, reproductive autonomy, the opportunity to become a parent if one so chooses, and the opportunity to be closely connected with other people even if we choose not to have biological children” (Sarah Harper, Professor of Gerontology, University of Oxford, UK)

“Decline and Prosper is an invaluable rich volume on global fertility to students, researchers and policy makers, who are interested in the complex relationship between fertility and societal improvement. I consider it a basic text on technical aspect of fertility, which students will find informing on common measures of fertility. Also, the compelling articulation on fertility policy will be a source of inspiration for undergraduate and graduate students of population studies.  Researchers in the fertility field anywhere in the world will find Decline and Prosper an insightful compendium on global fertility debate. This volume is particularly rich on fertility challenges engulfing sub-Saharan African societies, which can serve as research springboard. Policy makers will find Decline and Prosper a rich guide and justification for required fertility planning policies in the global north and south. So, I am fascinated to recommend this unparallel volume to all.” (Onipede Wusu, Professor PhD. Department of Sociology, Lagos State University, Ojo, Nigeria)

“Skirbekk offers a masterpiece about scientific research on human fertility. The book covers major domains in human fertility studies: from the past to present situations, and the future prospects, from classic wedlock fertility to cohabitation fertility, from individual biodemographic dispositions to socioeconomic and cultural determinants of fertility. Skirbekk tells us that fertility research should be framed within biological, sociocultural, ecological, and historical contexts. Overall, the book is well conceived, full of the author's insights about human fertility research. He concludes that low but not too fertility can lead to economic prosperity. The most comprehensive book on human fertility research I have ever read. The book is what I have been looking for in years.” (Dr. Danan Gu, Population Affairs Officer, UN Population Division)

“Skirbekk tackles a central issue for humanity: past, present and future fertility.  He comprehensively examines fertility decisions from many perspectives particularly highlighting the benefits that are often associated with low fertility.  Most important among these is the correlation with enhanced women’s rights and the freedom for women to make their own choices.  The indepth analysis also explores many other dimensions and potential benefits of low fertility while highlighting the uncertainties about the future” (Christopher J.L. Murray, Professor, MD, DPhil, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) head of the Global Burden of Disease, University of Washington, US)

“In his book, Decline and Prosper! Vegard goes beyond typical discussions on the factors that affect childbirth and fertility and offers potential contributions of modern-day events such as marriage instability, housing shortages, climate change, pandemics, among others. His discussion of how fertility policies have evolved over time and across different country contexts is illuminating. Not only do these policies need to be continually monitored to understand outcomes on a country’s population and development objectives, but governments need to be aware of how “sticky” initial anti-or pro-natalist policies can be. As a University Instructor, this book would be a great resource for my graduate students and other more seasoned demographers who are interested in fertility discussions as it carefully details the evolution of fertility across various developed and developing country contexts, discusses various countries varied and changing agenda for the attainment of an optimal population, and provides thought-provoking questions on new and stimulating areas for further research.”(Dr. Nkechi S. Owoo, Demographic Economist at the Department of Economics, University of Ghana, Ghana)

Authors and Affiliations

  • Centre for Fertility and Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway

    Vegard Skirbekk

About the author

Vegard Skirbekk is a social scientist and an expert on global demographic change. He has published over 250 scientific articles and frequently presents to policy makers around the world. He is Principal Investigator of the Fertility and Health Research Centre at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, and Professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University in New York, USA.


Bibliographic Information

Buying options

eBook
USD 9.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-91611-4
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD 17.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)