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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Would Lifting Sanctions Raise the Birth Rate in Iran?

Iran currently has one of the lowest fertility rates of any predominantly Muslim country. The United Nations estimates that the average woman in Iran is having 1.9 children--below replacement level. However, there are so many young women of reproductive age because of past high fertility that the population is nonetheless projected to grow from its current 80 million to 100 million by 2050. I have suggested in the past that one of the causes of the steep fertility decline in Iran is the economic uncertainty facing the country as a result of world-wide sanctions imposed on the country to try to stop its nuclear enrichment program. But today an agreement was reached that sets up a framework for an eventual end to those sanctions, as the BBC reports:
The framework agreement, struck after intensive talks, aims to prevent Tehran making a nuclear weapon in exchange for phased sanction relief. Iran and the six world powers involved must now finalise the deal. Iranians have been celebrating in the streets but Israel says the deal threatens its survival.
The US first imposed sanctions after the revolution in 1979, at a time when there were 39 million Iranians and the total fertility rate was 6.5. Other sanctions have been imposed along the way, including in 1995 when the US Congress passed the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, and in 2006 when the United Nations imposed a broader set of sanctions. All this time the birth rate has been dropping, but the question remains as to whether a lifting of sanctions--if it ultimately happens--will increase economic prospects for young people in sufficient quantity to encourage a rise in the birth rate. We know that the Iranian government is hoping so. On the other hand, the experience in East Asia and in Eastern and Southern Europe seems to be that when birth rates drop to replacement level or below, couples become accustomed to the higher standard of living and personal freedom that small families bring them, and so it may be unlikely that the birth rate would respond. Perhaps a celebratory rise, and then back down? Time will tell. No matter which way the fertility rate goes, though, Iran is on track to add millions more people to an already troubled region. That might be reason enough for Israel to worry.

1 comment:

  1. Here is a major new Pew study on religious populations.

    The most significant finding (at least to me) is a huge increase in the percentage of the world population that is Muslim.