Marital Fertility Decline in Developing Countries: Theories and Evidence

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Citation: Cleland, John G. (1985) Marital Fertility Decline in Developing Countries: Theories and Evidence.

Tagged: uw-madison (RSS), wisconsin (RSS), sociology (RSS), demography (RSS), prelim (RSS), qual (RSS), WisconsinDemographyPrelimAugust2009 (RSS), fertility (RSS), birth control (RSS)


· The conscious exercise of birth control within marriage is probably absent in many traditional societies.

· Fertility decline due to birth control bears the hallmarks of a diffusion of a new behavioral trait, usually spreading to all sectors of society within a remarkably short span of time, regardless of the economic position of individual families.

· The evidence from the study of fertility differentials, though only inferential, does not support the view that fundamental shifts in the economic role of the family unit, or of its members, particularly women and children, are necessary for marital fertility to decline.

· The fact that parental education and cultural factors, denoted by language, ethnicity, or region, emerge as major independent determinants of the onset of decline is more consistent with ideational than structural theories.

· The testimony of women concerning their family size preferences runs counter to the common assumption that explanations for fertility change must be sought exclusively, or even primarily, in motivations for smaller families. Within the short historical period for which relevant survey data are available, the propensity to translate preferences into appropriate behavior appears to have been more important than changes in family size preferences themselves.