A recent article published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has debunked a number of myths about population growth.

Myth: Population growth rates only decline as countries become wealthy and women become educated.

While it is well true that population growth rates have declined most, often below replacement levels, in the wealthy countries of Europe, it is not always realised that they have also declined in many poorer countries. One such country is Bangladesh – one of the poorest countries in the world. Most Bangladeshi girls have little education and marry in their mid-teens, yet the birth rate has fallen from about six children per woman to about three in a generation.

On the other hand, the United States, the world’s wealthiest country, has a birth rate of 2.1 children per woman – far higher than the relatively less wealthy areas of southern Europe where the birth rate iis as low as 1.4 children per woman. And Israel, a relatively wealthy country, has one of the world’s highest birth rates of about 6 children per woman.

Myth: The most effective means of controlling population growth is compulsion – such as China’s "one child" policy.

While China’s birth rate has fallen under the policy, the birth rate in Hong Kong, where there is no compulsion, has fallen even more – to less than one child per woman.

Myth: The Catholic ban on birth control leads to high birth rates in the Catholic countries of South America.

In Catholic Brazil, the birth rate is 1.9 children per woman – lower than the birth rate in North America.

Myth: Strict Muslim countries have high birth rates.

In Iran, one of the strictest Muslim states, the birth rate has fallen from 5.5 children per womam to less than 2 children per woman.

It is true that many Muslim countries have high birth rates. One group of these are sub-Saharan African countries which still have a pre-industrial economy and large families are needed to help with farming, to care for aging parents and to offset high death rates from disease. The other group of countries are Middle Eastern states which have rigid regimes that rule their coutries as though they were pre-industrial.