The size of the human population on this planet has much to do with how much damage our species does. There’s a lot of us, and while in some countries the population is shrinking, in others it’s still growing.
There are a lot of reasons for this. In many areas, a large family is still needed to ensure that the parents will have enough support. In many areas, too many children still die at young ages.
I’m no fan of telling people how many kids they should have. That’s a very personal decision. But I am a firm believer in doing what we can to help people choose to have smaller families.
Educated Women Choose to Have Fewer Women on Average
This isn’t a blanket statement saying that all educated women choose to have a small family. Some choose larger ones. But there are a number of studies that show that giving women more education results in smaller average family sizes.
Other factors have an impact too, of course. Women who marry young have larger average family sizes. Some cultures push much harder for large family sizes. Access to any sort of family planning effects family size. And you can’t forget the many who believe that having as many children as God gives them is the right way to live.
Is a Smaller Family Size Good for Everyone?
I hope the answer to that question is as obvious to you as it is to me. Of course it isn’t the best solution for everyone. Different situations mean people have different needs.
But it is a good thing for many. Fewer children means the parents have fewer expenses related to raising them. It may be easier to educate them. The mother has more chances to earn money, whether at home or at a job.
It also is easier on the mother’s body. Pregnancy has its risks, and these are higher in poorer countries. It may be a wonderful risk in many ways, and most women undertake those risks willingly, but the risk is still there.
How Does Education Help?
The more education a woman gets, the more likely she is to know what resources are available to help her control how many children she bears. She’s also more likely goals beyond bearing children, and more likely to be able to work toward those goals.
It’s not all easy, of course. If the culture she’s in is not accepting of smaller family sizes or of contraception, she’s going to face pressure. But in most cases acceptance increases over time.
Women who get an education marry later on average. I don’t mean “get a college education,” I mean even a few years of school. This means they’re more likely to start their families a little later, and so probably have fewer children.
She may also be better able to provide educational opportunities for her children. Much depends on what is available, but also an educated mother is better able to help in her children’s education.
More educated women also have more options open to them in how they can contribute to the economy. They can speak out for their community.
How Do We Help?
The best way to help women worldwide get more access to education is to support organizations that help make schools that are open to girls. Central Asia Institute for example, works to create community-based education in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with a focus on girls.