Uncomfortable Companions: Fertility decline and Ideology in Iran

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Essay entitled “Uncomfortable Companions” published in the Woodrow Wilson Center’s New Security Beat, March 5, 2018.

It should be an excellent time to be a young Iranian: High school and college enrollments in the Islamic Republic rank near the top of Muslim-majority countries. Women have only about two children on average, compared to 6.5 in the mid-1980s. And childhood mortality is projected to approach North American levels in the next 15 years. Yet, as the recent protests show, many young Iranians feel left out. Job growth—especially for young adults—has failed to keep pace with development, while persistently high rates of inflation steadily drive up the cost of living and cut deeply into Iranians’ savings.

Clearly, young Iranians expect more from their country’s economy. They aren’t alone. In Iran in Transitiona recent report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Karim Sadjadpour and I show that Iran is traversing its demographic window of opportunity—an economically advantageous period marked by small proportions of dependent children and seniors, and a large proportion in the most productive working ages. In fact, Iran’s current worker bulge (Fig. 1, below) rivals those that helped make “economic tigers” out of Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and China.

Iran Demographic Pyramid

[To read the entire essay, go to version on the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat]

or download Uncomfortable Companions_ Fertility Decline and Ideology in Iran here.