Does Education Have an Impact on Fertility Rate?

Published Apr 3, 2018
Credit: Pexels

Nigeria is currently the seventh most populous country in the world and the most populous country in Africa with more than 190 million people. There is no sign of a slowdown either. Nigeria's population is continuing to grow at an annual rate of 2.6%, and by the year 2050, it is projected that Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world with more than 400 million people.

Naturally, one of the main contributing factors of Nigeria's astounding population growth is the fertility rate of women in the country. The total fertility rate (i.e., children per woman) in Nigeria was at 5.7 in 2010–2015. What's more worrying, however, is that the adolescent birth rate (i.e. the number of births per one thousand women aged 15–19) was 117 in 2010–2015. To put things in perspective, the average world fertility rate was at 2.5 in the same time period, while the average adolescent birth rate across the world was 46.

Why might high fertility be a concern? The fact of the matter is, high fertility is a significant contributing factor to human overpopulation. Overpopulation is placing a strain on our planet, causing a scarcity in natural resources such as drinking water (which is already running out in South Africa) and food, accelerated climate change due to increased carbon emission and other pollution, deteriorating habitats, and the extinction of various species. Within a given country, a congestion of humans leads to unemployment and poverty, which in turn leads to a poor quality of life and impeded economic development. Currently, Nigeria's population growth is placing a huge strain on the country's public infrastructure and development, with not enough education opportunities being made available and unemployment being at an all-time high.

While there are a number of factors that affect fertility rates within a country (such as the social and cultural norms of the country), education is one of the factors that play a huge role. The level of education a woman possesses influences her childbearing on several facets

  • Educated women want fewer children which is a phenomenon observed in both developing and developed countries. Educated women have better jobs and higher income, and are less willing to sacrifice their jobs for more children. There's a notable difference even between women who have primary education and women who have no education.
  • Educated women end up having fewer children, and not only simply because they want fewer children. Educated women tend to get married later, and tend to be older than uneducated women when they start having children, and therefore are more physically able to give birth. Compared to teenage mothers, whose bodies are often not yet matured enough to bear healthy babies, older women are more likely to give birth to babies who survive. Educated women are also better at providing care at home and raising their children more effectively, which ultimately increases their children's human capital and decreases the need for more children.
  • Educated women know more about birth control, tend to adopt modern methods of birth control more often, and control birth better than uneducated women.

While both male and female education have an influence on fertility rate, the knowledge and opportunities that become available to females due to their attainment of education likely have a greater effect on the path they take in life and the number of children they end up having. With the appropriate enforcement of public policy, provision of sufficient funding and achievement of gender parity in education, Nigeria's population could be kept under control, leading to a more stable future for its people.

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Lilia Leung

A practising writer and information designer with an interest in technology, education, and people of the world.

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