Guyana's population was counted at 758,619 in the census of 1980 and estimated to be 764,000 in 1990. This slow growth was in sharp contrast to the decades following World War II, when the population rose from 375,000 in 1946 to 700,000 in 1970. The natural increase in population in 1990 was 1.9 percent; this growth was almost completely negated, however, by the large numbers of Guyanese who emigrated. The population was relatively young, with 37 percent under fifteen years of age in 1985.
Guyana's birthrate, which averaged thirty-two live births per 1,000 residents in the two decades prior to 1940, jumped to an exceptionally high forty live births per 1,000 in the two decades after 1940. The rate began to drop after 1960 and by 1990 had fallen to twenty-five live births per 1,000.
Efforts to control malaria and to improve sanitation in the 1940s resulted in a dramatic decrease in infant mortality and in the overall death rate. In the 1930s, the infant mortality rate was 149 for every 1,000 live births. By 1946 this rate had dropped to eighty-seven per 1,000, and in 1990 it stood at thirty deaths per 1,000 live births. Statistics on the general death rate mirror the decline in the infant mortality rate. The death rate (including infant mortality) in 1944 was twenty-two per 1,000 residents; in 1963, eight per 1,000; and in 1990, five per 1,000, one of the lowest rates in the Western Hemisphere.
Indo-Guyanese women had a higher birthrate than Afro-Guyanese women in the years after World War II. However, by the early 1960s the fertility rate for Indo-Guyanese women had begun to drop. Statistics for the 1980s showed Indo-Guyanese women marrying at a later age and having fewer children than had been customary in the 1950s. By the 1990s, the difference in birthrates between IndoGuyanese and Afro-Guyanese women had disappeared.
A general decline in fertility rates among women in all ethnic groups was attributed to the increased availability and use of contraceptives. In 1975 the Guyana Fertility Survey found that 57 percent of women who had been married had used contraceptives at some time and that about 40 percent currently were using them. This high rate of contraceptive use was maintained in the absence of public or private family-planning campaigns.
|Country Studies main page | Guyana Country Studies main page|