A new study suggests that educating young women will help control future world population growth.
The study, published in the July 29 issue of Science, addresses current reports on future growing populations where estimations are expected to be 9.3 billion by 2050, with 97% of its growth coming from developing nations.
Using world-wide data from the Demographic Health Survey (DHS), lead author Wolfgang Lutz, Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, and co-author Kamir SC found that women who obtained a secondary education had lower fertility rates in virtually every society in the world.
This was even evident in countries with very low school enrollment, such as Ethiopia, where women who had a secondary education had an average of two children versus six; the average number of children that women with no education bear.
The authors used a unique model that not only takes into account the conventional factors of age and gender of individuals in population analysis, but the education level as well.
“Better educated women have lower desired families because they tend to face high opportunity costs and tend to put more emphasis on the quality of lives of their children”, the authors state.
From current data, the researchers developed four different scenarios dependent on the future of school enrollment rates.
The scenarios ranged from extremely ambitious, such as those school enrollment rates currently found in Singapore and South Korea, to the most pessimistic; where no additional schools are built from the ones that exist today.
Taking into account these two scenarios, the authors project that the future population difference will be 1 billion individuals less if all countries followed the ‘fast-track’ scenario compared to the stagnant one by the year 2050.
This would make the world-wide population to be about 8.9 billion.
Obviously, this begs the question of how education can be obtained for these individuals in developing countries. This was not addressed specifically in the study.
However, Lutz and Kamir SC maintain that “full effects will not come to fruition in the developing world if strong further investments in education are being made.”
Although governmental policy primarily determines education reform, other highly developed countries should step up and develop international programs that will focus on providing high quality education to those less fortunate.
Not doing so could result in higher poverty rates and greater world-wide suffering.