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Home » Population Geography, Sub-Saharan Africa

Total Fertility Rates by Country, 1950 and 2015

Submitted by on February 29, 2016 – 10:19 am 6 Comments |  
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TFR 2010-2015 World MapI was recently asked to make a world map of the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) using World Bank data for the period 2010-2015. The same data sheet includes TFR figures for each five-year period starting in 1950. The contrast between fertility rates in 1950 and 2015 is so striking that I could not resist the temptation to make contrasting maps.




TFR 1950-1955 World MapAs can be seen, the overall drop in the human fertility rate has been pronounced. In countries ranging from China, to Iran, to Libya, to Brazil it has been nothing short of extraordinary.

TFR 1950-2015 World MapsTropical Africa, and especially the western portion of the region (“Middle Africa,” according to the World Bank), forms the major exception to this pattern. Here, several counties had higher TFR figures in 2010-2015 than they did in 1950-1955.   In DR Congo, for example, the respective numbers are 6.15 Gabon Fertility Graphand 5.98. Gabon also ended up in a higher category in the 2010-2015 map than on the 1950-1955 map, although the actual difference between its TFR in these two periods is not statistically significant: 4.00 and 3.99. As the graph shows, Gabon’s TFR did not stay the same during this period, but rather rose gradually and then began to decline gradually. Similar graphs can be found for other countries in “Middle Africa.”

It is quite significant that extremely high fertility figures are now mostly confined to tropical Africa, with only a few exceptions (such as Afghanistan and East Timor). It also seem to me that this phenomenon has been under-reported. Certainly most of my own students come into class with the impression that high fertility rates characterize most of the word’s less-developed countries.


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  • Vatroslav Herceg

    Thanks for sharing the data!
    The link between poverty and life in the countryside with high fertility rates is quite clear. Central Africa was in 1950. and today still a non industrialised and a agrarian society.
    The decline of fertility rates in Suth America is also a illustration of the nexus between poverty and fertility rates.
    Its interesting how Sweden has today a higher fertility rate then Brasil.

    • jeanyus

      I noticed that difference, too. Is this a case of better support for young families in socialist Sweden, or is it also immigrants in Sweden; Is Brazil now with a strong growing economy becoming more “industrialized”? I have heard/read statements in various media that in some countries couples feel they cannot afford more than one child, or that women, even in Korea, delay marriage and parenting to pursue careers longer.I also am of the opinion expressed by others that low birthrate can be a future crisis without immigration, because some countries will have too many elders living longer lives without enough workforce to support them or their health needs. That use to be one of the reasons people had children in past societies – which is why I am glad I have adult kids who care about me!

      • Klews

        High TFR of Sweden is probably caused by both the Muslim and original Swedish populations. The TFR for Sweden is 1,92. while around 4,9 % of people are of Muslim descent. Iceland with only around 0,3 % of Muslims has the TFR of 1,96. So we can assume that even the original inhabitants of northern europe have relatively high TFRs.

        That lack of workforce to support elders may very well be a myth. Just consider how much money is wasted for vanity projects and how much money is tolerated to be stolen. Caring for transplanted problematic and uncultured immigrants takes a lot of resources too.

  • NogbadTheBad

    This is why Europe’s current “migration crisis” isn’t going away anywhere soon – in fact it’s barely begun. There’ll be 400 million Nigerians by 2050; how likely are they to want to stay put?

  • Uncle Elias

    It may be under-reported but Hans Rosling has been talking about it for years.

    Family planning, prenatal and child healthcare are key. Maybe that’s why it’s under reported. So many major institutions and groups fear condoms, sex education, women’s rights and offering free healthcare.

  • Klews

    This is an overall data for all people of a particular country. But from a demographic point of view, that what matters is a population. A population is basically a group of people who are assumed, more or less, to breed among themselves. Of course there are a lot of ways to conceptualize particular populations in a country, but let’s say that nowadays the basic division is along sharp ethnic lines.

    The MAIN population division lines in Western Europe are visible minority Muslim people on one hand, and the original pre-immigration population on the other hand. Sure there are some intermarriages, but overall we can think of this as a sharp population division.

    In Eastern Europe, the main population division lines can be Gypsy people vs. original majority population. There are also intermarriages, particularly with those Gypsies/Roma whose lifestyles have moved closer to the mainstream population. But the “hardcore” Roma form its own population and it is has clear and sharp boundaries.

    So what’s the conclusion? The population islands of visible immigrants in western Europe (and especially if they are Muslim) form a sharp population division line. These sharp divisions of populations happen to emerge when we take people from one country and transplant them into another country and they don’t demographically conform to the new environment and form their own population with sharp boundaries.

    This phenomenon happens on massive scale especially in the western part of Europe with Muslim people. So the total fertility rate data in these countries mix two very different populations and this data consequently tell us less information than in another countries.