Development's 2 tribes; post-2015; the Big Dope Hunt; Save the Kids v The Economist; the next frontier; Millennium Villages under fire; African take-off: great advocacy videos: links I liked

May 23, 2012

Femicide, anger and struggle: stories of women's activism in Honduras

May 23, 2012

Religion, making babies and 'peak child': brilliant new Hans Rosling video

May 23, 2012
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Break out the champagne, the sword-swallowing data guru is back, with a brilliant performance on religion and fertility, delivered, as far as I can tell, in Qatar. Conclusion: ‘religion has very little to do with the number of children in the world’, and fertility is falling rapidly, everywhere (due to women’s education and paid jobs + access to birth control) – the world has reached a 2 billion ‘peak child’ level. Compulsory viewing. And his entire back catalogue of TED talks (including the sword swallowing one) is on his Gapminder website.

update: OMG the Rosling backlash has begun, c/o Aid Thoughts and Lawrence Haddad coming over all grumpy. It just gets better.


  1. Excellent video Duncan! I hope this will be seen by Andrew Mitchell. The focus on family planning of the DFID ‘golden moment’ is both ideological (harking back to pre-Cairo times) rather that based on the kind of evidence the video gives, and dangerous for the possible abuses of women’s (and men’s) reproductive rights and health it can lead to as it happened in the past (remember the Indian ’emergency’ and the Indonesian ‘safaris’?)

  2. What a brilliant video – so impressed with the explanation of population trends with boxes. Will definitely look at his other TED videos – thanks!

  3. I’d like to see the same data exercise with Catholic majority countries distinguished from Protestant-majority countries. My guess: while some Catholic majority, like Italy, have sharply reduced fertility despite Church teaching, others, like the Philippines, have been delayed in the demographic transiton by the teachings of the Church. Hans is a master presenter and great demographer but he hasn’t yet persuaded me that religious teachings are irrelevant to fertility.

  4. No, Hans Rosling did not say what your quote of his conclusion states. Hans certainly is a master presenter and a great salesman of statistical data and how to interpret them, but it’s hard to believe that even he would be able to convince many people that ‘fertility has very little to do with the number of children in the world’.

    What he said was, of course, that ‘religion has very little to do with the number of children in the world’!

    1. Oops, thanks Dag, have corrected the text – bit worrying that you’re the first person to point it out!

  5. On the relation between fertility and religion, Hans Rosling is wrong – there is much evidence of a link between “conservative” religion and higher birth rates. Just look at differences in TFR between religious categories in USA found through GSS (General Social Survey) data, and see writings by Professor Eric Kaufmann. A fault-line cuts across each religion, between “moderate” and “fundamentalist” categories, and the latter have higher birth rates. Hans Rosling should look at the US and European data.
    Dr JP McKeown

  6. You are right – Iran made excellent progress in reducing birth rates after 1980, with support from religious leaders. While most countries reduced birth rates in that period, not many as dramatically as Iran. However I’m not referring to national averages – instead look at cases where data is available that subdivides by type of religiosity, in the USA for example “Liberal Protestant” have lower birth rates than “Fundamentalist Protestant”. A similar pattern was found in six northwest European countries, and in Israel the difference between Haredi ultra-Orthodox and other Jews: see book by by Eric Kaufmann (Birkbeck), Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? So to make a sweeping claim that religion doesn’t affect birth rates is wrong.

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