Total fertility rate

Map of countries by fertility rate (2018), according to CIA World Factbook
A world map showing countries by total fertility rate (TFR), according to World Population Prospects 2015 by UN.

The total fertility rate (TFR), sometimes also called the fertility rate, absolute/potential natality, period total fertility rate (PTFR), or total period fertility rate (TPFR) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime if:

  1. She was to experience the exact current age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) through her lifetime, and
  2. She was to survive from birth to the end of her reproductive life.[1]

It is obtained by summing the single-year age-specific rates at a given time.

Parameter characteristics

Total fertility rate projections by region
Total fertility rate for selected countries
World historical TFR (1950–2015)
UN, average variant, 2010 rev.[2]
Years TFR
1950–1955 4.96
1955–1960 4.89
1960–1965 5.03
1965–1970 4.92
1970–1975 4.46
1975–1980 3.87
1980–1985 3.6
1985–1990 3.44
1990–1995 3.02
1995–2000 2.75
2000–2005 2.63
2005–2010 2.57
2010–2015 2.52

The TFR is a synthetic rate, not based on the fertility of any real group of women since this would involve waiting until they had completed childbearing. Nor is it based on counting up the total number of children actually born over their lifetime. Instead, the TFR is based on the age-specific fertility rates of women in their "child-bearing years", which in conventional international statistical usage is ages 15–44 or 15–49.[3]

The TFR is, therefore, a measure of the fertility of an imaginary woman who passes through her reproductive life subject to all the age-specific fertility rates for ages 15–49 that were recorded for a given population in a given year. The TFR represents the average number of children a woman would potentially have, were she to fast-forward through all her childbearing years in a single year, under all the age-specific fertility rates for that year. In other words, this rate is the number of children a woman would have if she was subject to prevailing fertility rates at all ages from a single given year, and survives throughout all her childbearing years.