Special Perspectives

Reproducing in Cities

Science  08 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5864, pp. 764-766
DOI: 10.1126/science.1153960

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Abstract

Reproducing in cities has always been costly, leading to lower fertility (that is, lower birth rates) in urban than in rural areas. Historically, although cities provided job opportunities, initially residents incurred the penalty of higher infant mortality, but as mortality rates fell at the end of the 19th century, European birth rates began to plummet. Fertility decline in Africa only started recently and has been dramatic in some cities. Here it is argued that both historical and evolutionary demographers are interpreting fertility declines across the globe in terms of the relative costs of child rearing, which increase to allow children to outcompete their peers. Now largely free from the fear of early death, postindustrial societies may create an environment that generates runaway parental investment, which will continue to drive fertility ever lower.

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