I don't understand how the society in The Giver could survive, based on a few key facts. Am I missing something?

  1. A "birth mother" only gave birth to 3 children in her life. it seems as though there are not many of them.
  2. A family unit could only have 2 children, one boy and one girl. Again, not all people could even have these children.

Given these facts, I can't help but believe the society must be constantly shrinking each generation. Am I missing something?

  • I need to work on the math to be sure but my gut tells me that you just need to have "enough" birth mothers to counteract whatever the death rate is; if each mother gives birth to 3 kids in 3 years, that means 3 elderly people could be released in that same time frame and the population would still stay flat. If I can work it out better I'll make this an answer. The real trick would be statistical anomolies, like no girls one year, or a bunch of pre-teen deaths.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 3:56
  • Yup, I was always under the impression that if they need more babies then they assign more birth mothers. If less needed, then less assigned. The new adults don't get a say in their occupation, aside from natural aptitude and inclination. I'm not sure they are trying to thrive as much as sustain.
    – user31178
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 5:14

1 Answer 1


The goal of the Giver community is to maintain the status quo indefinitely. There is no emphasis on thriving, just surviving. There does exist a level of technology in the community, but it is not highlighted in the book. The goal is to perfectly maintain the population. The gender birth ratios could be manipulated with the level of technology available.

There a number of formulas that would work to do this given 3 children are born to each birth mother. The ratio must also allow for two children (one of each gender) raised per adult pair. The ratios will be given in Male:Non-Birthing Female:Birth Mother. All of these are over-simplified, but form the basis from which things could be modified in times of abnormal deaths or other issues.

1:1:1 Works to maintain the population. There are two girls to every boy born, but if this was the norm in society it would not be noticed unless compared to something different. It does not account for raising children though. Each pair of 'parents' has 3 children to raise and twice as many girls as boys.

3:1:2 Works to maintain the population, and is mentioned by the Asker in a comment. It follows our concept of a relatively equal number of male and female births. It solves the population in and out problem. It's a little odd in that only 1/3 of males ever raise children, and only 1/3 of females are not birth mothers. It also means that each pair of parents has 6 children to raise.

2:1:1 Works to maintain the population only if 4 children are born to each birth mother. It follows our concept of a relatively equal number of male and female births, but each pair of'parents' has two of each gender to raise. Only 1/4 of the total population is birth mothers.

I think this is a case of the author failing to do the math. No ratio I can come up with satisfies the two conditions laid out in the book.

  • 1
    @PearsonArtPhoto For some reason, I thought that birth mothers were kept somewhat separate from the rest of the community, even after giving birth to their 3 children. If they are included in the parent pool, then that would equal 2 children for each pair of parents
    – Red_Shadow
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 15:00
  • That can be taken care of by children that don't survive to adulthood. The parent's get a replacement. For each two children that don't survive, one set of parents are not needed.
    – Red_Shadow
    Commented Mar 24, 2015 at 15:13

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