General Question

Charles's avatar

Why do poor people have the highest birth rates?

Asked by Charles (4815points) January 24th, 2012

It seems that regardless if it is the poor of the 3rd world nations or the poor of the developed world, the worse-off people end up having more kids, on average, than the stable and well-off people.

Even in America, it seems like the poorest people have the most kids and then you see all these professionals, successful and smart people with no kids or only one child. What is going on here?

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32 Answers

SpatzieLover's avatar

The difference is education.

marinelife's avatar

Birth rate is directly entwined with education level. because the poor are less educated, their birth rate is higher.

Jinx, @SpatzieLover

rebbel's avatar

Also worth realizing is that (mainly) in Third World countries birth rate isn’t the same as the amount of children a family has.
Perinatal mortality, infant mortality and child mortality in these countries is rather high, so a woman giving birth to seven babies might well only (in the end) have two (living) children.

bkcunningham's avatar

Could someone supply some stats please?

Blondesjon's avatar

There’s nothing much else to do when the cable and Internet are turned off.

Dog's avatar

In addition to the other reasons mentioned, to obtain birth control means access to health care, transportation to health care and more. In the US there are free alternatives unless you live outside of a city which makes it very hard to access.

FutureMemory's avatar

I think some of it is cultural.

Some people view having kids as a natural part of life, no matter what their economic status is. They would find it odd to not have kids simply because they’re poor, especially if they themselves grew up in a poor household.

The desire to have kids transcends economics, in their eyes.

JLeslie's avatar

Many reasons:



Living in a rural place

Less access to birth control

Cultural influences

Expected role of a woman

JLeslie's avatar

I just remembered an answer given on a Q a while back. A jelly who grew up middle class in America, but was around poor people quite often as a child because of the job his mom had, he said for most people who are poor it never occurred to them to “plan” a family.

bkcunningham's avatar

Thank you @rebbel. Can anyone provide stats on birth rates related to education, territory and income levels, please?

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham This page shows how much higher birth rates are in poor, less educated countries. See the map.

Aqua's avatar

The real reason that poor people and poor countries have higher birth rates is simply opportunity cost. It’s not an issue of having birth control or not. More than anything, children take up a lot of time, so those who are more educated have higher opportunity costs if they choose to have children. For the wife not to work would be very, very expensive. My econ professor briefly argued recently that China doesn’t need to have a one child policy; all they need to do is educate women more and they’ll have less children.

wundayatta's avatar

It is actually cheapest for poor people to have kids if you look at it in terms of opportunity costs. A poor person may not have a job or if they have one, it may not pay very much. So if they lose the job because they have to take care of a child, they lose little. A wealthy person loses all their income if they stay home to be with a child. That’s too expensive for most wealthy people.

In addition, in many countries in the world, children are your retirement plan. Male children, in particular. The more children you have, the better off you will be when you are old.

In parts of the world where there is poor health care, children die at higher rates. If children are you retirement and your wealth, then you need to have more, especially if you are poor. For poor people, children cost less than for wealthy people. They also provide more wealth. It is an economically sound decision to have many children when you have little wealth and it is likely you will lose many of them. It makes much more sense to have few children when they cost an awful lot and when they are unlikely to die.

bkcunningham's avatar

@JLeslie, my color, I think it may be a driver, is really messed up on my laptop. That map means little to nothing to me.I’m not sure if what I’m seeing in the colors is correct. Thank you for trying to help. What countries does it show as the wealthiest with the lowest birth rates?

JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham Just generalizing western Europe and North America have some of the lowest rates. Africa has some of the highest. South America falls in the middle.

EverRose11's avatar

I have lived off and on in the Philippines for over 20 years and I see that not only do poor countries have high Birth rates, they also have high death rates. Especially high rates of infant mortality. In order to ensure that there are children alive to take care of them in their old age, people marry young, have many children hopefully to achieve this aim.

bkcunningham's avatar

From your link, @JLeslie: The Demographic Transition Model describes how population mortality and fertility decline as social and economic development occurs through time. The two major factors in the Demographic Transition Model are Crude Birth Rate (CBR) and Crude Death Rate (CDR).

There are four stages to the Demographic Model. In the first and second stages, CBR remains high because people are still in agrarian cultures and need more labour to work on farms. In addition, the chances of children dying are high because medicine is not as advanced during that phase. In the third stage, CBR starts to decline due to women’s increasing participation in society and the reduced need for families to have many children to work on farms. In the fourth stage, CBR is sustained at a very low level, with some countries having rates that are below replacement levels in other countries.

digitalimpression's avatar

The “professionals” you described have no time for kids. They are marginally narcissistic at best and driven by money, not family. Its no surprise for them to be childless.

As far as “poor” people having more kids? I have no idea why.

auhsojsa's avatar

@FutureMemory I love your answer. @EverRose11 That’s interesting.

Also though in America, to add to the cultural statement, not everyone dreams of living in suburbia. Taking it from cultural to the individual it’s like playing Pokemon. A person will tell themselves, I wasn’t able to live out my dream, so I will help my child and push them to pursue their dreams. Things of that nature occur. However I grew up poor and around poor people. Politics, cultural events, parental involvement with school isn’t much a priority. The main priority is to work. And the types of work that I know poor people get into are either odd jobs, or double jobs at a Rite Aid and grocery market. Stuff like that.

Personally I just think poor people don’t give a fuck about, status quo and education nor politics. I think they are conscious of the fact that they have one life and life isn’t about pleasing “their minds” with all this education and money that is provided from a high education. I don’t believe the poor are dumb, as opposed to stubborn and hardened by society. I don’t believe the poor are a bunch of naive sub-human.

cheebdragon's avatar

Sex is usually free…..but even when it’s not free, it’s still pretty fucking cheap.

nikipedia's avatar

I will second the opportunity cost argument with examples from my own life.

My partner and I are both fairly educated and hold advanced degrees. He has, and I will have (with any luck), careers that require long, somewhat inflexible hours, and higher than average salaries. It would not be wise for either of us to give up our careers, so we will need to have very expensive childcare (more costly than my current salary!) if we want to have children.

My housemate’s girlfriend just got pregnant. She works part time at a pizza shop. Since becoming pregnant, she now has access to health care and other forms of government assistance that were not available to her previously. And more importantly, she now has a partner who will support her financially for the foreseeable future. For her, getting pregnant was her best economic decision (in the short term).

EdMayhew's avatar

@nikipedia Good point, but that only works for poor people in rich societies with welfare benefits systems in place, in poorer countries there is no child support so theoretically it makes no sense to have extra mouths to feed. Maybe there’s two whole different sets of reasons – one being culture and the other being opportunism?

This question is crying out for a link to ‘A Modest Proposal’, a satirical pamphlet by Jonathan Swift back in the seventeen hundreds, it outlines the plight of the poverty stricken Irish in a deeply dark and sarcastic manner, suggesting that the problems of famine and over population could be solved by the poor eating their own children :/ find it after the link


JLeslie's avatar

@bkcunningham I think that kind of supports my initial answer, don’t you? I had said, education, religion, living in a rural place, less access to birth control, cultural influences, and expected role of a woman can be so e reasons. I also agree with what others have suggested here about opportunity costs playing a part.

JLeslie's avatar

@EdMayhew In rural communities where farming is a large part of the economy, havinglots of children where more hands to work the farm. The additional mouths to feed were less expensive than the extra work provided by the children. This doesn’t pan out as well in todays society in developed countries like America maybe, but previously in history, and in less advanced countries I think it did. Back when medical care was less advanced, so the cost of healthcare was not a major issue if a child became sick. Also, education was not a major cost then.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I think @Blondesjon is onto something.

tedd's avatar

Lack of education into the consequences/realities of having multiple children. Lack of moral value to be concerned about having too many children (or any at all). Lack of access to birth control of various types. Lack of other activities to kill time.

jca's avatar

For people on public assistance, each child that is born to them means more public assistance, more food stamps, furniture money, diaper money, WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Medicaid would cover the medical costs, and if they’re on Section 8, they can get a larger apartment if they’re under-housed (meaning if there are more than two children per bedroom, or if they’re in a homeless shelter). That’s in the county I work for, and I’m sure federal guidelines apply across the United States.

nikipedia's avatar

@EdMayhew, I agree it makes more sense in countries with government assistance, but even just recruiting a partner to care for you and your mutual child can be an economic step up for some people in dire circumstances.

smilingheart1's avatar

Not much else to do and if it feels good do it.

mattbrowne's avatar

Education and lack of a good public social security system.

VanessaJohnson's avatar

I think it probably has to do with the fact that they can’t afford contraceptives and, often enough, if the woman gets pregnant, she doesn’t want to have an abortion because of the high religious beliefs.

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