Birth Rate, Marriage and Death
Beginning in the late 1970s, the birth rate declined and mortality increased. By the early 1980s, Hungary's growth rate had become one of the lowest in the world. More ominously, beginning in 1981, deaths outnumbered births. Over the 1980s, population decreased absolutely after peaking at a post-World War II high of 10.7 million in 1980. Thus, the 1988 census reported that about 10.6 million people lived in the country.
In 1986 the birth rate was 12.1 per 1,000 population, up slightly from the postwar low of 11.8 per 1,000 in 1984. However, as recently as 1975 the birth rate had been 18.4 per 1,000, and in 1948 the birth rate had been 21 per 1,000. One major reason for the overall decline of the birth rate appeared to be the increasing number of highly educated and economically active women who, as in other countries, tended to have fewer children. Age appeared to play no role in the declining birth rate. In 1986 women married at an average age of 24.6 years, a figure only slightly higher than in 1948, when the average age was 24.5. In the 1980s, the typical family had only two children (reflecting a dramatic decrease from the final decades of the nineteenth century, when the average number of children per family had been five).
Overall the population of the country was aging. A growing proportion of the population was aged fifty-five or older, increasing from 19.6 percent of the population in 1960 to 24.5 percent in 1988. By contrast, in 1988 the proportion of the population under fifteen was about 21 percent, which reflected a decrease of about 4 percent since 1949 and resulted from the declining birth rate.
Marriage rates fell steadily from the mid-970s to the mid1980s. In 1975 the marriage rate was 9.9 per 1,000. By 1986 that number had declined to 6.8 per 1,000. Moreover, in 1980 for the first time, the number of marriages that ended because of death or divorce outnumbered the number of marriages that took place. In 1980 the number of "marriages ceased" because of death and divorce was 9.2 per 1,000 population. That number rose to 9.3 by 1983, then fell slightly back to 9.2 by 1986.
Death rates were relatively high, and they were rising. In 1986 the death rate was 13.8 per 1,000, as compared with 12.4 per 1,000 in 1975. In 1986 life expectancy averaged sixty-eight years, up from about sixty-six years in 1975. For women in 1986, the average life span was almost seventy-two years; for men, it was just under sixty-five years.
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