In 1916, the United Kingdom’s population was approximately 34 million. By the time of the 2011 census, the U.K. population had increased to 63.2 million. Still, that increase was far less than that of the U.S. or the world at large over the past century, due in large part to Europe having some of the lowest birth rates in the world. That trend still holds today, with the U.K. having approximately 12.2 births per 1,000 population in 2014 — the U.S. had 13.4 births per 1,000.
What’s fascinating is that most of the reasons why the birth rate is deemed to be falling in 2016 are not major reasons for the same phenomenon in certain countries back in 1916. Increased education for women? Barely. Later ages for marriages and starting families? Not really. Abortion? That wasn’t legal in the U.K. until 1967, and for the most part wasn’t legal in the U.S. either until 1973.
It’s worth remembering that the U.K. population is approximately 65 million today and that it is far more industrialized that it was a century ago when reading this quote from Chairman Rev. Dean Inge back in 1916:
The Chairman added that, with regard to England, he did not think it desirable that the country should contain sixty, or seventy, or eighty millions of persons, entirely divorced from the land, employed in large towns in producing commodities under cheap conditions. “Is that,” the Chairman asked of the witness, J.A. Hobson, “a state of things which could possibly produce a satisfactory or healthy nation?”
Why Is the Birth Rate Constantly Declining?: Results of an Inquiry Conducted in England by National Council of Public Morals, Which Seeks to Regenerate the British Race
From July 16, 1916