Low fertility: a global trend

The social, political and economic implications of China‘s low fertility have attracted significant attention, particularly in 2023, when its total population was surpassed by India’s, according to a White House report.

But low fertility is a global phenomenon and today even India‘s fertility is below replacement level.

In the United States, California’s 2021 total fertility rate of 1.54 children per woman is lower than the national average (1.66); both indicators have shown steady declines in recent years.

In this regard, the Sanford C. Bernstein Fund believes that low fertility can lead to declines in school enrollment and reductions in the size of the future labor force, although those effects can be mitigated by migration patterns, labor force participation rates, and other factors that affect school enrollment and attendance rates.

Although the recent drop in birth rates since the global financial crisis has attracted much attention, fertility in the United States has been declining for a much longer period.

The rate has declined in the United States from about 3.6 in 1960, near the peak of the U.S. baby boom, to about 1.7 in 2021.

The U.S. trend is in line with the fall in the global fertility rate.

Low fertility

In the mid-20th century, the global total fertility rate was 4.9. The global average has declined to 2.3 children per woman by 2021. An estimated two-thirds of the world’s population now lives in a country with below-replacement fertility, and the global population is projected to begin to shrink this century.

In Europe, the total fertility rate declined from 2.7 in 1950 to 1.5 in 2021, according to UN statistics.


Since the late 20th century, some of the world’s lowest fertility rates have been recorded in the major Asian economies.

China, South Korea and Japan – countries with diverse economic, political and social environments – are today characterized by low fertility rates.

Japan, with a total fertility rate of 1.3, has been below replacement level for decades, along with Brazil, Canada, Chile, Germany, Thailand and others.


Redacción Opportimes