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Education Affects Population Growth in the Middle East

28.01.1998 - (idw) Internationales Institut für Angewandte Systemanalyse Laxenburg

Education Affects Population Growth in the Middle East

IIASA Study shows how education influences birth rates

Laxenburg, Austria - 26 January 1998 - More and better education, especially of women, is likely to reduce the number of children born per woman in the Middle East, leading to lower population growth there, according to a study by the Population (POP) Project at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

The IIASA study, which looks at Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, demonstrates the importance and benefits of including education when projecting future population. The POP analysis indicates a possibility that the populations will as much as triple in Jordan and Syria and more than quadruple in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the 50 years from 1994 to 2044. Although many past years of high fertility (still ranging from more than seven children per woman in the Gaza Strip to 2.5 children per woman in Lebanon) will give these countries more years of high population growth, the study contends that the rate of growth will decline due to rapid educational improvements in this eastern Mediterranean region.

Study results indicate that there will be a substantial decline in the percentage of the population with little or no education if educational efforts continue. In fact, by 2044, the proportion of the population with low education (no schooling or primary school not completed) could be reduced by 50 percent in Jordan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and by 66 percent in Lebanon.

"The implementation of education policies will be a major variable shaping future population composition and growth," says study author Anne Goujon, a french researcher who works in IIASA's Population Project. Education has an indirect influence on population growth, by reducing the fertility of women (children born per woman) who have been educated. The study shows that education policies begun in the 1970s already have an affect on the growth rate because of the difference between current fertility levels of women with no education and those with some education.

For example, in Jordan in 1990, women with no education had 40.0 percent more children than women with secondary education and higher. In Lebanon in 1996, the average number of children born to illiterate women aged 45-49 (a good indicator of completed fertility) was more than twice the average born to women of the same age who had gone to university. In Syria in 1993, women with some primary education had an average of 20 percent fewer children than illiterate women, while women with secondary education and above have 50 percent less children than illiterate women. In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1995, women with secondary and higher education had 30.0 percent less children than women with less than secondary education.

"The potential increase in female school enrollment and the entry of a greater portion and more educated women into the labor force during their fertile years could bring fertility levels down faster than often predicted," summarizes Anne Goujon. The transition of more women to more educated levels will outweigh the fertility of the women without education and trigger lower overall fertility rates and slower population growth for each country, according to the study.

The population projections have been formulated using three scenarios (low, central and high) based on current and future changes in fertility, mortality and education specific to each political area from 1994 to 2044. Results and data are available also for other countries in Africa and Europe.

The full report is available on the World Wide Web (WWW) at:

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg, Austria) is a non-governmental research institution sponsored by a consortium of National Member Organizations in Asia, Europe and North America. The Institute's research focuses on sustainability and the human dimensions of global change. The studies are international and interdisciplinary, providing timely and relevant information and options for the scientific community, policy makers and the public.

For further information, please contact:

Christoph M. Schneider, Office of Public Information, IIASA

phone: (02236) 807 299, fax: (02236) 73149, e-mail:

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