Brazil's Fertility Falls Below Two-Child Average

(February 2009) Recent population estimates from Brazil’s national statistical office (IBGE) peg the national fertility rate at just 1.9 lifetime children per woman in 2007, lower than previous rates estimated by the UN, the U.S. Census Bureau, PRB, and other international organizations that estimate population measures. Notably, this new estimate is below the long-term replacement fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman—and below the 2.1 estimated for the United States in 2007.

Brazil does not have complete registration of births and has not had a national demographic and health survey since 1996, the usual data sources for national fertility estimates. But IBGE analyzed 2000 Census data, vital registration statistics, and household surveys and found evidence of a sharp fertility decline. These new estimates show the rate falling from 5.3 children per woman in 1970 to 2.8 in 1990, and a projected 1.8 by 2010. The rate levels off at 1.5 children per woman by 2030.

This sharp fertility decline in Latin America’s largest country has major implications for the region’s future population size, and signals significant population aging. Brazil’s population, nearly 190 million in 2008 in the new IBGE estimates, is projected to reach 216.4 million by 2030, and then slip to 215.3 million by 2050. While the total population is projected to decline slightly between 2030 and 2050, for example, the number of Brazilians ages 65 or older is expected to grow by 70 percent.

Mary Mederios Kent is senior demographic editor at the Population Reference Bureau.


Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Projeção da População do Brasil por Sexo e Idade—1980-2050: Revisão 2008 (2008), accessed online at, on Feb. 12, 2009.

IBGE, Projeção da População do Brasil: População Brasileira Envelhece em Ritmo Acelerado (Comunicação Social, Nov. 27, 2008), accessed online at, on Feb. 17, 2009.

UN Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision, Online Data, accessed online on Feb. 12, 2009; and UN Population Division, Worl Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision (forthcoming).