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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Low Fertility in Iran--It's the Economy, Stupid!

In a nice, albeit obviously coincidental, follow-up to my comments recently on religion and fertility, the New York Times today has a story about the very low birth rate in Iran and the government's attempts to do something about it. The thrust of the story is that poor economic prospects are keeping young people from wanting to marry and have kids.
The demographic problem has also become entwined with Iran’s long-running conflict with the West over its nuclear program. One of the leading sources of Iran’s economic troubles is the series of harsh Western economic sanctions imposed in recent years to punish Tehran and to bring it to the negotiating table.
Tahereh Labbaf, the medical adviser to the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, which deals with the population issue, said that the birthrate for the country’s Sunni Muslims is around four children per couple. “This is very sobering,” a conservative website, Tasnim, quoted her as saying.
Keep in mind, though, that Sunni Muslims represent only about 10 percent of Iran's population, so they are unlikely to drive trends in any important way.
Experts say that while birthrates in Iran are very low, there is no real crisis just yet. But they also say that financial incentives and faith will not by themselves reverse the population decline.
The critical factor, said Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi, head of the demographics department at Tehran University, is the economy.
So, in the end, we see that one of the most effective policies that western nations can implement to lower another country's birth rate is to impose economic sanctions. This also has worked in Cuba, where the average woman has 1.8 children--below replacement level. Economic sanctions do not seem capable of overthrowing governments, but they do seem to bring the birth rate down. Call it the unintended birth control plan.

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