Observing contemporary demography trends one might be forgiven for thinking that no previous times have been as radical and fast changing as ours. Demographers have noted with amazement the pace of Iran’s fertility decline in recent years, and we are witnessing unprecedented population ageing and are advised to prepare for radical changes in the welfare states of “old” Europe. When looking to a more distant European past we may find no less amazing societal and demographic changes.
The term ‘adverse pregnancy outcomes’ usually refers to low weight at birth, i.e. to newborns that weigh below 2500 grams. Among these low-weight infants, the worst-off group includes those weighing below 1500 grams, who were also delivered pre-term (i.e. before the 37th week of gestation). All these babies face higher neonatal and infant mortality, as well as worse health during childhood and adulthood. Conditions such as growth retardation, neurological problems, hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, etc. have been linked to low weight at birth. Another adverse outcome is ‘heavy birth weight’ (i.e. weighing above 4500 grams), as it is linked to both complications during delivery and higher morbidity (for instance, diabetes and heart disease).
Policy makers have long been concerned with fertility rates. In the 1960s, the focus was on reducing fertility rates around the world. Today, in many European countries, policy makers are more concerned that fertility may be too low. Understanding how people come to make fertility decisions is still an ongoing research topic. Some evolutionary anthropologists have described humans as “cooperative breeders” meaning that individuals other than parents help raise children. A couple may decide to have a child (or additional children) if family members are able and willing to provide the couple with help. A recent article by Mathews and Sear (2013a) found that British women who have relatives as close friends are more likely to progress to their first child. Continue reading
Television and celebrity are ubiquitous in the industrial world and, increasingly, in many parts of the developing world. Making the link between television and childbearing preferences and outcomes may seem a leap of faith, but recent studies are increasingly finding associations, particularly in the developing world. Apart from my own work, numerous studies have reflected on the relationship between television and childbearing, especially in India and Brazilian soap operas. In the past week, however, the issue has been brought to the fore by a blog post on Geocurrents by Martin Lewis at Stanford University, who explicitly examines the role of television in driving down fertility in India. For Lewis,