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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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Can Venezuela Handle a Higher Birth Rate?

The birth rate has gone down a lot in Venezuela in recent years. According to the UN demographers, it was nearly 3 children per woman only a couple of decades ago, and it is now nearly down to replacement level. The recency of this decline means that the country has a very large youth population--almost 4 out of every 10 Venezuelans is under age 20. But, a story today in the Washington Post suggests that contraceptives are not just priced out the market (as I had blogged about almost three years ago), they are nearly gone from the market.
For years, oral contraceptives, IUDs and condoms were available free at many public hospitals or through government programs. But the cash-strapped government has largely suspended those handouts, leaving some forms of contraception impossible to find and others prohibitively expensive.

“It’s hard for young people especially to access them,” said Vanessa Diaz, a gynecologist at Caracas University Hospital. “Contraceptives like condoms used to be given out and there were many brands available, some of them cheap. But that’s just not the case anymore.”
As you might expect, this is not keeping people from having sex. It just means that they are (a) more likely to get pregnant when they don't want to; (b) possibly going to have a dangerous unsafe abortion if pregnancy occurs; and/or (c) more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases. None of these outcomes is going to be good for the future of the country. Under the severe conditions existing in Venezuela, it is sadly possible to imagine a situation in which an increase in the birthrate through unintended pregnancies is balanced by a rise in the death rate from STDs and other diseases for which medicines are no longer available. 

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