The implications of this explosive growth for both the physical environment and human wellbeing alarmed many observers and prompted an intense public policy debate. Many scholars and policymakers noted that high levels of educational achievement were associated with more moderate rates of population growth, suggesting that important opportunities for alleviating population pressures might be found in ensuring greater access to education, particularly for females. The ensuing public policy debate has prompted an examination of how education affects the birth rate. The explosive growth of the human population in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was the result of a historically unprecedented decline in the rate of mortality, rather than an increase in the birth rate. The proportion of children dying before reaching the age of five fell from nearly one in three in most of the world to less than one in one hundred in the most advanced societies over this period, and to one in ten in low-income countries. In the wealthiest countries, birth rates adjusted quickly to restore a balance between births and deaths and establish a rate of population growth of less than 1 percent a year. In economically advanced societies, the average number of children born to each woman over her reproductive life has fallen from about seven to less than two. However, in the poorest countries, a sharp drop in death rates has not been accompanied by a corresponding fall in birth rates. As a result, the rate of population growth–the difference between the average birth rate and the average mortality rate–has increased dramatically in most of the world. The growth of population has been greatest in countries that are both poorest and least able to invest in social and educational services. The combined effects of these forces seem to imply that the gulf between rich and poor is likely to widen over the foreseeable future if aggressive policy measures are not introduced. These facts suggest that the key to ensuring a sustainable rate of population growth lies in reducing the fertility rate. However, in a highly influential 1979 review of the research literature on the relationship between education and fertility, the economist Susan Hill Cochrane concluded that too little was known about the mechanisms through which education affects population growth to allow policy-makers to rely on improvements in educational opportunities to slow the rate of population growth. Since 1976 a large number of scholars have focused on the impact of education–especially the education of the girl child–on fertility, mortality, and population growth. The central purpose of these studies has been to determine whether the nearly universal association of low fertility and high levels of educational attainment are causally linked or merely the result of their association with other forces that directly affect fertility. For example, the inverse relationship between female literacy and fertility might have nothing to do with education as such, but might instead simply reveal that societies that seriously attempt to educate females also care about the welfare of women and therefore seek to control fertility in order to protect their health. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC FACTORS
The research literature has sought to identify the causal pathways that link education and Public Education. The scholars working in this area have been drawn primarily from the disciplines of economics, sociology, and demography, and they have brought with them the conceptual and methodological traditions of their respective disciplines. Economists have suggested that the issues be organized around the familiar (for economists) ideas of supply and demand. They have argued that the number of children actually born to a couple is determined by the capacity to bear children, the factors that determine desired family size, and the couple's ability to achieve its aims. The capacity for meeting...
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