When Is Fertility Too Low or Too High? Population Policy Preferences of Demographers around the World

Hendrik P. van Dalen , Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)
Kène Henkens, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI)

When has the fertility rate in a country become so low or so high that a government needs to intervene? This paper sheds light on this population policy question based on a world-wide survey among demographers. We examine how professional views on the interaction between population and society, and the fertility level in the country of residence affects their policy preferences with respect to fertility levels. Three results stand out: first, concerns about the carrying capacity of the earth explain why concerned demographers are more willing to intervene than those who are less concerned. Because of this, the median respondent becomes concerned once fertility drops below 1.4 children in low fertility settings or above 3.0 in high fertility settings. Second, the context of decision making matters: on the one hand, experts living in high fertility countries are more set on intervention than those living in low fertility countries, but on the other hand their threshold fertility level is also higher. Third, the political orientation of demographers matters: demographers on the right of the political spectrum are more set on intervention than demographers on the left.

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 Presented in Session 45. Policy Issues