Council Commentary

Counting Down Our Journals’ Most Downloaded Articles of 2016

The Population Council produces two high-impact peer-reviewed journals: Population and Development Review (PDR) and Studies in Family Planning (SFP). Over the next few weeks, we are highlighting the top 10 most downloaded articles of 2016 for each journal. The topics explored in these papers highlight the diversity of research published in both journals on critical global health and development issues. PDR authors investigated population-related questions and policies on immigration, gender, family, marriage, fertility, and mortality. In Studies, researchers examined trends in unintended pregnancies, abortion, and contraceptive use; the evolution of China’s one-child policy; the effects of Haiti’s earthquake on women’s reproductive options, and more.   

The most downloaded paper in PDR was viewed online nearly 7,000 times. "Advanced Maternal Age and Offspring Outcomes: Reproductive Aging and Counterbalancing Period Trends" found that children born to older moms tended to be taller and more educated than the children of younger mothers. This research has been featured in news outlets ranging from CNN and TIME to Cosmopolitan. "Intended and Unintended Pregnancies Worldwide in 2012 and Recent Trends" topped the charts for Studies in Family Planning. Published in 2014 and accessed online more than 5,500 times, it continues to provide authoritative data on the global pregnancy rate and has been cited most recently in press on the male birth control pill and Zika.  This essential research informs programs, policies, and dialogue around pregnancy, contraception, and maternal health. 

Breaking down the numbers further, the average number of downloads per article was 260 for PDR and 275 for SFP—well above the average of 160 per article for all the journals that Wiley, the journals’ publisher, tags as Sociology.  The reach and impact of PDR and SFP is reflected in its global and academic readership for whom the journals are required reading on the latest trends in demography, sexual and reproductive health, and related fields. 

Follow us at @Pop_Council and the hashtags #PDRjournal and #SFPjournal. Happy reading!

Population and Development Review Top 10 Articles of 2016:

This article draws on a repository of data established under the IMAGE (Internal Migration Around the Globe) project to construct the first comprehensive league table of internal migration intensities for countries around the world—examining links between development and migration using a range of demographic, economic, and social variables. 

Theories of family change suggest that, as countries modernize, arranged marriage would decline in favor of Western marriage practices—an evolution that would signal the improving status of women worldwide. But limited data are available to assess the change. This is the first study to evaluate the extent of change in arranged marriage at the national level in India, and it finds that the trend is toward a hybridization of Western and Indian practices.

Sex-based discrimination has resulted in severe demographic imbalances between males and females, culminating in a large number of "missing women" in several countries around the world. John Bongaarts and Christophe Z. Guilmoto provide new estimates and projections of this number and the reasons behind it.  There were 3.4 million newly-missed females in 2010 and, that number is expected to remain above 3 million every year until 2050.

Despite predictions about the long-term decline in marriage, fertility, and unions, the research presented here argues that in a number of countries these declines have halted—even reversed in some cases.  This turnaround is driven by increasing gender egalitarianism. 

The world currently has more refugees and in¬ternally displaced persons than it has had since World War II, yet there are concerns about the perceived financial burden of this influx. What, in reality, is the economic impact of these new arrivals? Joakim Ruist finds that in Sweden, the country with the largest number of refugees per capita, wealthy countries could substantially increase their per-capita refugee intakes without endangering their welfare systems. 

This essay was first published in the PDR supplement Population and Public Policy: Essays in Honor of Paul Demeny. The authors reject the popular claim that China’s one-child policy was responsible for preventing 400 million births and explain why the policy persisted for more than 30 years despite its negative consequences.

Research on the entry of women into the labor force often argues that it has stressed family relationships. In “The Gender Revolution: A Framework for Understanding Changing Family and Demographic Behavior,” however, the authors find evidence of reversals in the relationships between women’s wages and marriage/fertility, and argue that the increasingly active role men play as fathers and partners is also helping strengthen families. 

The twinning rate has increased dramatically over the last four decades in developed countries—roughly doubling in England, Wales, Germany, Denmark, France, and South Korea; and increasing in the U.S. from 9.5 twin deliveries per 1,000 deliveries in 1975 to 16.9 in 2011. The increase is thanks to delayed childbearing and more medically assisted reproduction (MAR). Pison et al. examine the multiple births trends, as well as the impact of MAR policies and practices.

How effective are immigration policies? This article argues that more evidence-based research about the short and long-term effects of policies is needed because of confusion between policy discourse, policy implementation, and policy impact. 

Children of older mothers are on average tend to be taller and more educated than the children of younger mothers. The authors of this study find that in industrialized countries, educational opportunities are increasing, and people are getting healthier by the year. In other words, it pays to be born later.

Studies in Family Planning Top 10 Articles of 2016:

John Bongaarts draws on DHS data from 63 developing countries to analyze how family planning programs reduce unmet need and stimulate contraceptive use. By making modern contraceptives more widely available and by removing obstacles to use, more women who do not want to become pregnant use them, thereby reducing unmet need. The evidence also shows, however, that these programs can have a second effect by raising the demand for contraception. This often less-analyzed effect complicates efforts to assess program impact and must be accounted for when evaluating unmet need. 

During the past decade, unmet need for family planning has remained high in Pakistan and gains in contraceptive use have been minimal. Zeba Sathar et al. estimate there were 2.2 million abortions in Pakistan in 2012—a substantial increase from 2002. Both effective family planning programs and strategies to improve the quality and coverage of postabortion services are urgently needed in the country.

This article provides a critical review of studies assessing the effects of unintended pregnancy on the health of infants, children, and parents in developed and developing countries. The analysis indicates a need for more studies in developing countries to assess the impact of unintended pregnancy on parental health and long-term health outcomes for children and families. 

The nearly 50 million Nigerian young people aged 10–24 face many challenges to their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). In this paper, Ann Blanc et al. analyze the content of more than 300,000 text messages about these topics received by MyQuestion. They find substantial unmet need for basic SRH information, with users’ questions communicated in ways that convey considerable confusion, misinformation, and urgency.

The level of unmet need for contraception—an important motivator of international family planning programs and policies—has declined only slightly in recent decades. This study draws upon data from Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean to explain why. Access to a range of methods from which to choose, and information/counseling to help women select and effectively use an appropriate method, can be critical in helping women overcome obstacles to contraceptive use.

At the 2012 Family Planning Summit in London, world leaders committed to providing effective family planning information and services to 120 million additional women and girls by the year 2020. Karen Hardee et al. present an innovative new conceptual framework designed to help accomplish that goal by incorporating human rights laws and principles within family-planning-program and quality-of-care frameworks.

The authors identify effects of the 2010 Haiti earthquake on women’s reproductive health and family planning options, including less frequent use of injectibles and reduced access to condoms. The earthquake also impacted women’s ability to negotiate condom use with their partners and led to an increased numbers of unwanted pregnancies.   

In November 2013, China announced reforms to its family planning policies: couples would be allowed to have a second child if either parent is an only child. This paper explores the economic, demographic, and political motivations behind the reforms and highlights a potential ideological shift in China’s family planning. 

This March 2016 commentary describes the process that led to the end of the 35-year one-child policy. The authors argue that much of China’s fertility decline was realized prior to the launch of the policy, under a less restrictive iteration of it in the 1970s that encouraged fewer births. 

In “Intended and Unintended Pregnancies Worldwide in 2012 and Recent Trends,” the authors find that the global pregnancy rate decreased only slightly from 2008 to 2012, after declining substantially between 1995 and 2008. 85 million pregnancies, representing 40 percent of all pregnancies, were unintended in 2012. This data provides important context for future family planning programs.