Takayama, Noriyuki, and Martin Werding, eds. Fertility and Public Policy: How to Reverse the Trend of Declining Birth Rates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. vi + 283 pages. Cloth, $35.00.
With reports from United Nations demographers that the world's population reached seven billion in October 2011, global media pronounced a population explosion surging numbers of people higher and forecasted a future that looked ever more likely to be crowded. Yet those who study demography, both at the national and global levels, know that numbers can be deceiving in understanding how and why populations change and the direction that the global population is heading. Unlike a Malthusian future where the positive population checks of famine, war, or disease are the only method of halting excessive population expansion, people with resources in developed countries are more likely to take preventative measures in having fewer children than previous generations, thus leading to either slowed growth or population decline. With increased education and access to family planning resources, this trend is beginning to spread to developing countries as well. In fact, the UN estimates that the world population will begin to level off to replacement levels, where people produce only enough children to replace themselves, near mid-twenty-first century.
Stemming from a series of interrelated, international papers presented at a "Fertility and Public Policy" conference held in Munich in February 2008, Fertility and Public Policy." How to Reverse the Trend of Declining Birth Rates delves deeper into policies that address concerns with future declining fertility at a time when the current global rise in population takes center stage. In addition to an introductory essay, ten substantive essays written by an international group of authors center around two overarching questions: (1) why does population growth halt or decline; and, (2) what can or should a nation do to reverse a faltering population?
Throughout these essays, careful attention is paid to the causes underlying population stagnation and decline, and how policies enacted are designed to combat or negate them. In particular, policies that make it easier to rear and provide for children are presented to be at the forefront of treatment plans for declining fertility concerns within several countries, notably France, South Korea, and Sweden. Sound arguments are provided by the contributing authors that illustrate...