Visualizing Fertility Rates across the World

I’ve seen quite a few blogs and videos discussing declining fertility rates and the resulting population decline across the world, so I thought it would be interesting to explore some World Bank data on the topic. These visualizations are based on the Total Fertility Rate metric within the World Bank’s World Development Indicators public data set available in Google BigQuery.

What is the Fertility Rate?

The fertility rate, often referred to as the total fertility rate (TFR), is a measure that reflects the average number of children a woman would have over her lifetime, given the current birth rates at each age. This demographic indicator is crucial for understanding population dynamics, including growth or decline, and helps in planning for future societal and economic needs.

Mapping global Fertility Rates

Below is a map showing Fertility Rates by country for 2019 (the most recent year available in the World Bank Data Set. Turquoise is a high fertility rate and red is a low fertility rate. We can immediately see that Africa is the only continent with much turquoise.

a looker studio map showing fertility rates across the world.

In fact if we look at the sixty countries with the highest fertility rates, we can see that the majority of them are in Africa.

a table showing fertility rate by country

Changes in Fertility Rates and the Replacement Rate

The replacement fertility rate is a specific level of the total fertility rate that would result in a stable population size in the absence of migration. This rate is typically estimated at about 2.1 children per woman in most of the world. The figure 2.1 accounts for the fact that not all children will survive to adulthood and have their own children, and it also factors in the sex ratio at birth. In countries with higher mortality rates, especially infant and child mortality rates, the replacement level fertility rate may be higher than 2.1.

A fertility rate below the replacement level can lead to an aging population and a shrinking labor force, presenting challenges for supporting an older population with fewer workers. Conversely, a fertility rate significantly above replacement level can lead to rapid population growth, which may strain resources and infrastructure.

a chart showing declining levels of child birth across the world

Fertility Rate by Region

If we break down the world’s countries into various regions we see that some places are well above replacement level, while others are below it.

Fertility Rate by Region

There is not a single country in Western Europe above the replacement rate.

a chart showing fertility rates in european countries based on world bank data
a map of the low births in europe

Apart from Mongolia, the rest of East Asia has a deep population crisis.

a chart showing fertility in asia
map of east asia

If we look at Sub-Saharan Africa, we see that many countries are well above the replacement rate and continue to have high fertility rates.

bar chart showing levels of TFR in africa
map showing fertility rate in African countries

Through the fertility rates we can see clearly how the demographics of the world will change.

But why is a population decrease necessarily a bad thing? The rise of robots and AI may help to cushion the blow, but one of the main issues is what people of different ages contribute to the economy. Across Europe and most developed nations, the government runs extensive welfare systems including free healthcare, state pensions and many other benefits. These systems are dependent upon tax revenue. 

Simply put; fewer young people means fewer people working which means less tax revenue. And for the next few decades Africa will have what other nations do not; an abundance of young people.

Thank you for reading!

If you liked this blog post you might enjoy some of my others.

Comparing DALL-E and Midjourney AI Images in 2024
Four in One Analytics Looker Studio Dashboard Template
Visualizing a young Africa and an aging World
Visualizing Fertility Rates across the World
GDP per Capita within African Regions