This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Iranian Government Responds to Census Results

The results of the 2011 Census of Iran have just recently been released and the government immediately responded with a move to encourage larger families. There are 75 million people in Iran, three-fourths of whom live in urban areas and, although the population is still quite young (55 percent under age 30), it is highly educated and this educated urban population has very dramatically reduced its fertility levels over the past two decades. The census data indicated that the total fertility rate is now down to 1.3 children per woman, even lower than the 1.6 found in the 2006 census.

Upon seeing these data, the government wasted no time in dropping support for its longstanding birth control program.

Iran has scrapped its birth-control program in a radical policy reversal intended to produce a baby boom that could more than double its population.
The health ministry confirmed the shift days after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, said that the two-decade-old policy of controlled growth must end and that Iran should aim for a population of 150 million to 200 million. A recent census revealed the country has just over 75 million people. According to the UN in 2009, Iran topped the list of countries experiencing the greatest drop in fertility rates since 1980.
The reduction was achieved with the help of an extensive publicly backed initiative that included vasectomies, contraceptives issued by the health ministry, statutory family planning advice for newlyweds and even a state-owned condom factory.
It was introduced in the early 1990s when officials feared a population explosion that occurred after the 1979 Islamic revolution could stretch resources to the breaking point.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has previously called on Iranians to have more children, saying it would help Iran to defeat the west. 

As you can see, President Ahmadinejad's call to Iranians has been widely ignored, but it is possible that the birth rate will go up if couples find it increasingly difficult to avoid a pregnancy due to the loss of government subsidized programs. And, of course, this could divert a little attention away from the Iranian nuclear program...


  1. This could, of course, make more women turn to the use of abortion as a means of birth control. Abortion rates are already quite high in the cities, according to a number of demographic surveys.

  2. Yes, that is possible. We can hope that Iran does not follow the example of Romania in the 1960s.

  3. Iran is headed for becoming a wreck and a basket case. What a shame and disaster. Mr Khamene'i and his ilk truly are a great danger to Iran and the world.

  4. Crazy and silly... double population? For economic and ideological aims? But forget that increasing population is overall bad for environment and food and water supply...

  5. Don't worry. Governments can push birth-rates down, but extensive experience show's it's virtually impossible to push them up.

  6. I read this article with the highest interest, but I made my own calculations afterward. If citations on the Wikipedia are correct, Iran have had 22 587 183 women between the ages 15 and 49 in 2011 and 1 382 229 live births. This indicates a 2,08 fertility with my raw methods which does not calculate the age specific fertility rates. I known, this can lead to some discrepancies but I also calculated the rates of a wide range of European countries all with open sources about their populations and there the differences were not more than 0,1-0,2.

    Could the professor please either point out a source which has stated the above mentioned numbers or hand out the data from which the results are derived? In either case, I am most interested in the subject and welcome any concurring opinions.

    Sincerely yours

    Tamás Szkok

    1. I see that the original article from which that TFR of 1.3 came is no longer available on the internet. The UN demographers estimate the TFR in Iran to be 1.6 children per woman This calculation requires the use of age-specific fertility rates, which are available on the UN population division website. Otherwise you won't get a comparable number.