“Family Planning as a Strategic Focus of U.S. Foreign Policy,” by Elizabeth Leahy Madsen, was an input paper for the Council on Foreign Relations report, The Role of U.S. Family Planning Assistance in U.S. Foreign Policy. Excerpted from the introduction:
Comprehensive policies that incorporate demography, family planning, and reproductive health can promote higher levels of stability and development, thereby improving the health and livelihood of people around the world while also benefiting overarching U.S. interests. U.S. foreign aid will be more effective if increased investments are made in high population-growth countries for reproductive health and family planning
programs. These programs are cost-effective because they help reduce the stress that rapid population growth places on a country’s economic, environmental, and social resources.
Family Planning and Reproductive Health Programs
Family planning and reproductive health programs have successfully reduced the world’s population growth rate, propelled economic development, and improved women’s lives across the world. When people, and especially women, are given the opportunity and technology to limit their family size, they often choose to do so.
Population trends are motivated by three demographic forces: fertility, mortality, and migration. Although they can have dramatic effects on national and local populations, mortality and migration in particular have relatively little influence globally. Across the world, mortality rates have declined to a point where most children born today live to reach their own reproductive years, though much work remains to reduce the effect of communicable diseases and improve nutrition among the young. Meanwhile, three percent of the world’s population currently lives outside of their birth-countries. Therefore, while migration is increasing and an important demographic force, it does not occur at a scale large enough to significantly affect global-level demography.
Fertility rates currently are – and in the short-term will remain – the most important driver of global demographic trends. The total fertility rate, or average number of children born to each woman, has been estimated at 2.7 for the period between 2000 and 2005, a decline from 3.6 children per woman in the early 1980s. Given this decline, population projections generally assume future declines in fertility rates. For example, the widely cited “medium-fertility variant,” which is the United Nations’ projection of a world population growing from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 9.1 billion by 2050, relies upon an assumption that the global fertility rate will decline by 24 percent to two children per woman. However, if fertility rates remain constant at current levels, the world’s population would reach 11 billion by 2050. Fertility rates, whether they decline or remain at current levels, are not distributed evenly among countries and regions.
Continue reading or download the full report, “Family Planning as a Strategic Focus of U.S. Foreign Policy,” from the Council on Foreign Relations.