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Birthrates up in richer nations

Birthrates in most rich nations, falling since 1965, have slowly begun to rise under the apparent influence of social trends encouraging childbearing, an Australian scientist said Thursday.

In nearly every nation in northern and western Europe as well as Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, birthrates are rising again after reaching record lows in the 1980s, said demographer Lincoln Day of the Australian National University.

"Most of the countries have experienced a slight increase," Day said. "There are continuing declines in nine nations and five show small fluctuations. But most of the 31 countries studied are showing growth."

In a study to be published later this year, Day argues that the rise may be due to such factors as divorced women's cementing of second marriages with children, expectations of larger families held by new immigrants and a greater appreciation of children in people's lives.

Day said the rising birthrates in rich nations also may reflect dissatisfaction with careers and modern society, leading to withdrawal "to the bosom of the nuclear family."

The figures show that in Iceland, Sweden, the United States and New Zealand, birthrates now exceed the pace needed to maintain current population.

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