Society, the Individual and Medicine 

Facts and Figures: Canadian Birth Rates

1. Core Knowledge:

Graph showing declining number of births per woman from 1871 to 2001


2. Nice to Know

Graph showing patterns of births by age of mother for different cohorts of women, in 1962, 1982 and 2004.

Why may these changes be happening?

What Effect Might it Have?

On the infant: The birth rate is highest among less educated women who tend to have children earlier, may more often be single parents, so there can sometimes be less financial and social stability for the child. The child could also receive less intellectual stimulation in the home environment, so gets a slow start in the educational race.

Demographic effects: The low fertility trap may be self-perpetuating: there will be fewer women in future to have the children that we need; young people have been socialized to believe in small families; the aging population will place tax burdens on the younger generation of workers, including women, some of whom may elect to go to work rather than have children.  

Ethnic make-up and population diversity: One reaction is to increase immigration, but as most industrial countries have the same problem, this means that immigrants typically come from developing nations.

Possible Interventions:

The most effective policy approach appears to be to help women maintain their careers, rather than merely offering them financial incentives to stay home and have children.  In France, mothers of familles nombreuses (3+ kids) are offered rent subsidies, tax breaks, state funded parental leave and subsidies for extracurricular activities for their kids.  The French fertility rate has risen from 1.8 to 2.0. 

Will this work here?  Are Canadian attitudes positive towards society subsidizing those who wish to have large families?  Will employers tolerate the disruption of giving parental leave, perhaps for years at a time?

Quebec's policies now include child care subsidies and a monthly child benefit to help families integrate family responsibilities with remaining employed.  These appear to have been effective in raising birth rates, by 10,000 more babies in 2006 compared with 2002. (Source: Maclean's Magazine, May 28, 2007, page 40.)

Additional tidbits:

Related topics:
The International Decline in birth rates;      Maternal mortality
Breast Feeding in Canada;  Maternal Smoking;  Maternal Alcohol Consumption
PPT diagram showing preterm birth rates and stillbirths by maternal age
Basic Statistics on Canadian Population