Usually, high religious observance and low income go along with high birthrates. But, according to the United States Census Bureau, Iran now has a similar birth rate to New England — which is the least fertile region in the U.S.
The speed of the change is breathtaking. A woman in Oman today has 5.6 fewer babies than a woman in Oman 30 years ago. Morocco, Syria and Saudi Arabia have seen fertility-rate declines of nearly 60 percent, and in Iran it’s more than 70 percent. These are among the fastest declines in recorded history.
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The weakening of the developed countries might not be a cause for concern if we knew that the world as a whole were likely to become more pacific. But unfortunately, just the opposite may be the case. During the 2020s, the developing world will be buffeted by its own potentially destabilizing demographic storms. China will face a massive age wave that could slow economic growth and precipitate political crisis just as that country is overtaking America as the world’s leading economic power. Russia will be in the midst of the steepest and most protracted population implosion of any major power since the plague-ridden Middle Ages. Meanwhile, many other developing countries, especially in the Muslim world, will experience a sudden new resurgence of youth whose aspirations they are unlikely to be able to meet.
The risk of social and political upheaval could grow throughout the developing world—even as the developed world’s capacity to deal with such threats declines. Yet, if the developed world seems destined to see its geopolitical stature diminish, there is one partial but important exception to the trend: the United States. While it is fashionable to argue that US power has peaked, demography suggests America will play as important a role in shaping the world order in this century as it did in the last.
[Related Article with Video: Dangerous Demographics]
[Fascinating Related Video: Neil Howe and William Strauss on The Fourth Turning in 1997 CSpan]