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Charted: The Global Decline of Fertility Rates

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Chart showing the change in global fertility rates since 1951

Charted: The Global Decline of Fertility Rates

Over the last 50 years, fertility rates have dropped drastically around the world. In 1952, the average global family had five children—now, they have less than three.

This graphic by Pablo Alvarez uses tracked fertility rates from Our World in Data to show how rates have evolved (and largely fallen) over the past decades.

What’s The Difference Between Fertility Rates and Birth Rates?

Though both measures relate to population growth, a country’s birth rate and fertility rate are noticeably different:

  • Birth Rate: The total number of births in a year per 1,000 individuals.
  • Fertility Rate: The total number of births in a year per 1,000 women of reproductive age in a population.

As such, the fertility rate is a more specific measure, which as Britannica highlights, “allows for more efficient and beneficial planning and resource allocation.” Not including immigration, a given area needs an overall total fertility rate of 2.1 to keep a stable population.

Global Fertility Rates since 1952

For the last half-century, fertility rates have steadily decreased worldwide. Here’s a look at the average number of children per woman since 1952:

YearAverage # of children per family% change (y-o-y)
19515.0-0.5%
19525.0-1.4%
19534.9-0.7%
19544.9-0.5%
19554.9-0.3%
19564.9-0.1%
19574.90.1%
19584.90.3%
19594.90.4%
19605.00.5%
19615.00.5%
19625.00.4%
19635.00.3%
19645.00.1%
19655.0-0.2%
19665.0-0.5%
19675.0-0.8%
19684.9-1.1%
19694.8-1.4%
19704.7-1.8%
19714.6-2.1%
19724.5-2.5%
19734.4-2.7%
19744.3-2.9%
19754.2-2.9%
19764.0-2.8%
19773.9-2.7%
19783.8-2.4%
19793.8-2.1%
19803.7-1.7%
19813.6-1.3%
19823.6-1.0%
19833.6-0.8%
19843.6-0.7%
19853.5-0.8%
19863.5-1.0%
19873.4-1.4%
19883.4-1.7%
19893.3-2.1%
19903.2-2.4%
19913.1-2.6%
19923.1-2.6%
19933.0-2.4%
19942.9-2.2%
19952.9-1.8%
19962.8-1.5%
19972.8-1.3%
19982.8-1.1%
19992.7-1.1%
20002.7-0.9%
20012.7-0.9%
20022.7-0.7%
20032.6-0.6%
20042.6-0.6%
20052.6-0.5%
20062.6-0.5%
20072.6-0.5%
20082.6-0.5%
20092.6-0.5%
20102.5-0.5%
20112.5-0.5%
20122.5-0.5%
20132.5-0.5%
20142.5-0.4%
20152.5-0.4%
20162.5-0.4%
20172.5-0.4%
20182.5-0.4%
20192.5-0.4%
20202.4-0.4%

Why are women having fewer children? There are a number of theories and empirical research studies to help explain this decrease, but according to Dr. Max Roser, the founder of Our World in Data, most of the literature boils down to three main factors:

  • Women’s empowerment, particularly in education and the workforce
  • Lower child mortality
  • Increased cost to raising children

Research has found that higher education in women is correlated with lower fertility. For instance, in Iran in the 1950s, women had an average of three years of schooling and raised seven children on average.

But by 2010, when Iranian women had nine years of schooling on average, the average fertility rate in the country had dropped to 1.8.

This theory is further supported when you look at countries where women’s education is still relatively lagging. For instance, in 2010, women in Niger had 1.3 years of education on average, and an average of more than seven children—more than double the global average at that time.

The Societal Impact

Lower fertility rates, coupled with increased life expectancies around the world, are creating an aging population. Since 1950, the global median age has grown from 25 years to 33 years.

An older population comes with a number of economic risks, including rising healthcare costs and a smaller global workforce.

share of population that's working age is shrinking

According to a report by the World Bank, the world’s working-age population peaked back in 2012. Since then, it’s been on the decline.

A smaller working population puts more pressure on those who are working to support those who are collecting pensions. This could ultimately lead to an economic slowdown if countries don’t prepare and alter their pension systems accordingly, to account for our aging population.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Maps

Mapped: World’s Top 40 Largest Military Budgets

War in Europe has caused Ukraine’s military spend to jump up by 640%. How do the world’s largest military budgets compare?

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A map of the top 40 largest military budgets in the world in 2022.

Mapped: World’s Top 40 Largest Military Budgets

In the final year of World War II, the U.S. spent about 38% of its GDP on its military. When adjusted for inflation, the military budget over those four years of war came to a staggering $4.1 trillion in 2020 dollars.

Almost 80 years later, modern day military spending isn’t much of a far cry from World War II budgets. The top spenders have continued to increase their military capabilities, while war in Ukraine has caused countries in the region to re-evaluate their budgets as well.

In 2022, global military budgets hit an all-time high of $2.2 trillion, according to data released by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the eighth consecutive year of increase. This post looks at the top 40 largest military budgets in the world.

The Largest Military Budgets in 2022

The United States accounts for almost 40% of global military expenditures, with its 2022 spend coming to $877 billion.

Here are the top 40 largest military budgets in the world for 2022 in U.S. dollars:

RankCountryMilitary Budget (Billions)% of World
Military Spend
1🇺🇸 U.S.$876.939.0%
2🇨🇳 China$292.013.0%
3🇷🇺 Russia$86.43.9%
4🇮🇳 India$81.43.6%
5🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia$75.03.3%
6🇬🇧 UK$68.53.1%
7🇩🇪 Germany$55.82.5%
8🇫🇷 France$53.62.4%
9🇰🇷 South Korea$46.42.1%
10🇯🇵 Japan$46.02.1%
11🇺🇦 Ukraine$44.02.0%
12🇮🇹 Italy$33.51.5%
13🇦🇺 Australia$32.31.4%
14🇨🇦 Canada$26.91.2%
15🇮🇱 Israel$23.41.0%
16🇪🇸 Spain$20.30.9%
17🇧🇷 Brazil$20.20.9%
18🇵🇱 Poland$16.60.7%
19🇳🇱 Netherlands$15.60.7%
20🇶🇦 Qatar$15.40.7%
21🇹🇼 Taiwan$12.50.6%
22🇸🇬 Singapore$11.70.5%
23🇹🇷 Türkiye$10.60.5%
24🇵🇰 Pakistan$10.30.5%
25🇨🇴 Colombia$9.90.4%
26🇩🇿 Algeria$9.10.4%
27🇮🇩 Indonesia$9.00.4%
28🇲🇽 Mexico$8.50.4%
29🇳🇴 Norway$8.40.4%
30🇰🇼 Kuwait$8.20.4%
31🇬🇷 Greece$8.10.4%
32🇸🇪 Sweden$7.70.3%
33🇧🇪 Belgium$6.90.3%
34🇮🇷 Iran$6.80.3%
35🇨🇭 Switzerland$6.10.3%
36🇴🇲 Oman$5.80.3%
37🇹🇭 Thailand$5.70.3%
38🇨🇱 Chile$5.60.2%
39🇩🇰 Denmark$5.50.2%
40🇷🇴 Romania$5.20.2%

China, ranked second in absolute terms, accounts for another 13% of world military expenditure at $292 billion.

Russia, India and Saudi Arabia round out the top five biggest military budgets in 2022. Add in the UK to the mix (#6 rank), and these countries all had military expenditures that made up at least 3% of global spend.

Comparatively, the lowest budgets on the top 40 ranged include Romania at $5.2 billion, Denmark at $5.5 billion, and Chile at $5.6 billion. They each account for just 0.2% of the world’s military budgets in 2022, and of course there are many countries with even smaller spends.

Largest Military Budget Increases in 2022

Russia’s position as the third-largest military spender is a recent development, as the country’s military spend had a 9% increase between 2021 and 2022, according to SIPRI estimates.

On the other side of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine was the top 40 military budget with the largest annual increase in 2022, surging nearly six and a half times above its 2021 expenditures.

Country% Change
(2021-2022)
Rank Change
(2021-2022)
🇺🇦 Ukraine640%+25
🇶🇦 Qatar27%+2
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia16%+3
🇧🇪 Belgium13%0
🇳🇱 Netherlands12%0
🇸🇪 Sweden12%-1
🇵🇱 Poland11%0
🇷🇺 Russia9.2%+2
🇩🇰 Denmark8.8%+3
🇪🇸 Spain7.3%-1
🇳🇴 Norway6.2%0
🇮🇳 India6.0%-1
🇯🇵 Japan5.9%-1
🇮🇷 Iran4.6%+5
🇨🇳 China4.2%0
🇬🇧 UK3.7%-2
🇨🇦 Canada3.0%-1
🇸🇬 Singapore2.8%+1
🇩🇪 Germany2.3%0
🇮🇩 Indonesia1.3%0
🇨🇴 Colombia1.1%-1
🇺🇸 U.S.0.7%0
🇫🇷 France0.6%-2
🇬🇷 Greece0.6%-1
🇨🇭 Switzerland0.4%-1
🇹🇼 Taiwan0.4%-1
🇦🇺 Australia0.3%-1
🇵🇰 Pakistan-2.0%-3
🇰🇷 South Korea-2.5%+1
🇷🇴 Romania-2.6%+1
🇴🇲 Oman-3.0%+1
🇩🇿 Algeria-3.7%-1
🇮🇱 Israel-4.2%-1
🇮🇹 Italy-4.5%-1
🇨🇱 Chile-6.2%-3
🇧🇷 Brazil-7.9%-1
🇲🇽 Mexico-9.7%0
🇰🇼 Kuwait-11%-4
🇹🇭 Thailand-11%-5
🇹🇷 Türkiye-26%-6

Ukraine’s dramatic increase represents the highest single-year jump ever recorded by SIPRI, painting a vivid before-and-after picture of a nation engaged in conflict.

Although no other country comes close in matching Ukraine’s surge in defense spending, Qatar saw a substantial increase of 27% over the last year, marking a continuing trend over the last decade of significantly bolstering its military.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia, along with four European nations (Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Poland), have registered year-over-year changes of over 10%.

On the flipside, 13 of the nations with the largest military budgets decreased spend from 2021, including top 15 spenders such as South Korea, Italy, and Israel.

The largest drop was seen by Türkiye, with an estimated 26% reduction in military budget. This drop may be linked to Türkiye’s inflation problem, which saw prices rise 72.3% in 2022—effectively decreasing the purchasing power of their currency in relative terms to other nations.

The Specter of War in Europe

With an ongoing conflict in the region and large financial powerhouses, its no surprise that eight of the top 10 countries with the most significant increases in military spending are located in Europe.

Consequently, European military budgets have reached levels not witnessed since the end of the Cold War.

And amid escalating geopolitical concerns, countries in Asia such as India, Japan, and China have also ramped up their defense spending. This is an indication of simmering global flashpoints such as India and China’s border skirmishes, the longstanding South China Sea territorial conflict, and concerns surrounding Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Data note: SIPRI’s military expenditure data collection began in 1949, thus its records do not account for all expenditure that occurred during both World Wars.

Please see SIPRI’s methodologies page for more details on how they collect their data and create estimates.

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