Why does higher literacy rates correspond to lower birth rates?



I understand that the more educated people are more aware of the responsibilities and risks of having children and they use protection more etc. but why is it ALWAYS that more literate and rich populations have lower birth rates? At one point, shouldn’t the literate and able people have children to contribute to the future of their countries?

In: Other

It’s not that *literate* people are less likely to have kids.

It’s that populations with a higher rate of literacy… also tend to have a higher level of development – better medical care, better education, more industries and jobs concentrated on advanced technologies.

If you look at how a country developed in time you can see why this is a trend.

A country starting out a few hundred years ago that was based on agriculture (farming and harvesting) had a lower quality of health care, which meant people were more likely to die. Also, having more children was an asset, a positive thing, because they could help contribute to the work on the farm. But you were also more likely to have even *more* kids than that because you kind of anticipated that at least a few or more would die from disease.

Then medicine started getting better, and technology started getting better. People started moving to the city and the mortality rate for children started to drop. But this was a transitional period so people were still poppin’ kids out.

Then finally a *lot* of people settled in the city, and having kids became a *liability*, a burden, because… well, your 14 year old kid isn’t going to be helping you compile and file financial reports for your job at Goldman-Sachs. And you could feel comfortable having just one or two kids because with modern medicine you have a really strong guarantee that they are gonna be healthy and survive through adulthood.

Now, there are still a lot of countries that are developing around the world and unfortunately do not have access to the same level of medicine that other countries have, and they still rely on very manual farming and fishing jobs for survival. So they’re in that early stage still.

It is complicated, and related to many factors. But having children is something that poor people can do even with low income. (Though it may not be financially wise, it’s still possible.) Luxury travel, or high powered careers, or fancy cars aren’t an option, but having children is a possibility.

Imagine being at a buffet with only 3 foods on it. You are likely to try all 3, because the choices are so limited. That is what it is like to be poor. Having children is one of your choices, but your other choices are limited. Having children won’t stop you from traveling, retiring early, etc., because those aren’t choices you would have had anyway.

But imagine being at a buffet with 40 foods on it. You won’t try all 40 things. It’s too much. You choose the ones that suit you best, and you leave many of the foods untried. This is what it is like to be rich. You have more choices, so you take the ones you want the most, and you leave the others behind.

The unavoidable truth is that people seem to often prefer not to have children. We know this because when they have the knowledge and the money to prevent it, they do.

There is a kind of eb and flow to birth rate.

It used to be, back in older times, you would have as many kids as you could to increase the likelihood that as many as possible would make it to adulthood.

As medicines got better, we increased the rate at which our offspring made it to adulthood. However, the social norms took time to catch up. You were still expected to have many children.

Globally this explains why birth rates in richer countries are lower than in developing countries. The developing world is still behind on that benefit of medicine, so they also need their social norms to change. The penetration of increasing medicines is indirectly linked to the increase in literacy rates.

On a more local level, the difference between the rich and poor having children is basically tied to how much they see a child impacting their livelihood. The extremely poor actually get more benefits from social programs if they have more children, so it’s not really much of a factor for them. They can actually end up with more in their pockets at the end of the day with a child. In the meanwhile, the people with *some* money who don’t qualify for those programs have to worry about the cost of children themselves.

This is especially evident in the US, where the poorest people qualify for socialized healthcare. They are not out of pocket for the birth of their child. However, go up one class level, and suddenly people need to save up $10,000 or more for the birth of their child. This will restrict how many children they can have.

I think being more educated helps you to be able to think things much further through. Educated people often wait until they have graduated college and begun their careers before planning families. Starting late also limits fertility time. Realizing that having children is an enormous undertaking – financially, emotionally and physically, people that have children later are able to see these things in their friends and siblings families. It also seems to me that people more and more are opting not to have children.


Because illiterate people can’t read. You know what reading does? Takes time. You know what happens when bored people have nothing to do? They fuck.

The gist is that when women and girls are provided educations that give them economic opportunities they often take those opportunities.

Without those opportunities the “option” available to women is “get married and have kids”. Because women in this scenario have extremely limited economic value they’re a liability to their parents rather than an asset, so their broke-as-fuck parents (with limited education themselves) are strongly motivated to marry them off ASAP so someone else is responsible for providing for them. Once married, with limited education for both husband and wife, her role distilled down to having and raising kids.

Providing education leads to opportunities for employment that give women and girls economic value. This reduces motivation to marry them off as soon as possible, and once they are married off provides them with ability to have employment that gives them value to their husbands other than as a baby factory. The husbands in these scenarios are also more likely to be educated, so both husband and wife will also have more knowledge and ability to plan families so can defer having children and limit how many children they have to instead have them when they can better afford to.

As you noted, being informed and using contraception is part. It’s also that those who become literate are more likely educated in a modern education system that goes until 18, at which point they begin adult rites of passage like marriage and family vs. starting those younger. Some may even go to college or other secondary education, may want to get established in a career, etc. before having children. And in societies/job requiring literacy, children are typically economic liabilities ( you need to spend money to raise them) vs. them being economic benefits as additional labor on the farm, hunting/gathering food, etc.

What everyone else said but to not overlook a very important point: When given options, women on average elect to have few to no children. Kids not dying and all that is true, sure but I don’t think we should be shocked that women wouldn’t voluntarily spend a lot of time with a debilitating life-threatening medical condition as if that’s somehow surprising.

This is a [highly studied](https://wol.iza.org/uploads/articles/228/pdfs/female-education-and-its-impact-on-fertility.pdf) issue, and there is a lot of literature on it. As with many social science questions, there are [multiple factors](https://blogs.worldbank.org/health/female-education-and-childbearing-closer-look-data) in play. However, the main ones seem to be that as girls and women gain more social and economic opportunities through education, they tend to seek to have fewer children. But there are also other factors, such as better information about reproductive health and birth control, and better negotiation strength with their husbands.

Me having one kid over having no kids will contribute statistically nothing to the future population.

nah you assume wrong

simply nerds get laid less and thats the end

also nerds tend to be usually ugly so thats it too , they go for carieer cuz they failed with love early on

One thing that you’ve got to remember when discussing ‘the future of the country’ in terms of having kids is that in an advanced capitalist country, there are only a few successful people, so the need to provide lots of kids isn’t there. Especially because of globalisation, the labour is outsourced to other countries, and so lots of people aren’t really needed any more to keep the country running (they rely instead on other countries having lots of people)

1. Nerds read books.

2. Nerds don’t get girls.

3. ???

4. Profit.

I learnt this in AP Human Geography. As Literacy rates become higher, woman and men both are generally gearing towards studying more and getting better jobs. Since Women want to finish their education, they push back getting married and having children, to where they might marry, but not have kids. It is related to the stages of demographic growth.

Having a high literacy basically means that area of society cares about making sure that it’s population is educated.

This has a lot of other implications/correlations. Usually areas that care enough about their population’s literacy will care about taking care of the population in general compared to places that don’t care about literacy, leading to a higher quality of life.

People who are educated are more likely to make informed decisions.

Aka having a kid becomes more than just someone telling you “it’s fun, I did it, you should do it” or a side effect of sex.

People who are educated know how babies are made and can actively choose to not do the thing that makes babies.

People who are educated usually come from higher income areas so they can afford birth control and abortions more often than lower income areas can.

People who are educated are more likely to know that having kids takes time and money and choose to wait it have less kids to ensure each child gets a certain amount of time/money. They also know that if they don’t want to have kids, they don’t have to have kids.

People who are educated most likely can take care of themselves and chances are they will not have to rely on their children on the future, another side of that is cultures where farming or labor is necessary, too much time is spent doing the labor so there is no point in going to school because you don’t have time. Some of those people will have more kids to have more workers.

Going back to the topic of an area caring about it’s population’s well being and quality of life, if you take good care of your kid and have good medical care and such your kid is pretty much guaranteed to make it to adulthood. In other, less fortunate places, infant/child mortality rate is insanely high, mostly due to diseases and lack of adequate medical care. People in these areas will have more kids just hoping a decent amount of them will actually make it to adulthood.

Tl;dr, people who are literate are most likely educated, which has a lot of implications, like access to birth control and family planning/education and low infant mortality rates means it’s more guaranteed your child will make it to adulthood so there is not really a need to have a bunch of kids to hope some make it. The higher rate of literacy, the higher level of medical care (usually).

James Nicoll may have explained it best:

> “Until recently baby production was largely dependent on slave labour; as soon as women are allowed to answer the question “Would you like to squeeze as many objects the size of a watermelon out of your body as it takes to kill you?” they generally answer “No, thank you.” This leads to falling birthrates everywhere women are not kept enslaved and ignorant of the alternatives.”

–Dave, literacy for everyone USUALLY leads to literacy and lack of ignorance for many women

they have it backwards. people who have the mindset, drive, effort, and responsibility to become ‘rich and literate’ are the same people who realize raising a kid is a huge investment of time and money and try to wait until they can actually afford it before doing it carelessly. Sure there are a lot of spoiled rich kids who don’t think it matters..but eventually the trust fund runs out.


Higher literacy -> better development -> better healthcare system -> less need to have more children as they are all highly likely to get into adulthood -> lower birth rates