Diversity in the Parity-Specific Patterns of Fertility Decline in Urban and Rural Areas of the Developing World

Mathias Lerch, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

The study of fertility decline in urban and rural areas is instructive for our understanding of the processes of social change and how these spread in society. We are interested in the emergence and diffusion of cohort fertility decline by type of place of residence in developing countries. We question whether these transitions were driven by stopping behaviors of childbearing that progressively diffused from upper to lower parities – i.e. according to the classic model of family limitation. Using successive World Fertility Surveys and Demographic and Health Surveys for 52 countries, we estimated and projected cohort parity progression ratios of women born between 1926 and 1981 by type of place of residence, and decomposed the changes in total fertility over successive 10-year cohorts into the contributions at each parity. Two descriptive indicators of the parity-specific starting and diffusion pattern of fertility decline are developed to test the family limitation hypothesis.

Despite fast urban fertility decline in all countries, the behavioral patterns varied significantly. Family limitation was the norm in Asia and, to a lesser extent, in Latin America. But across sub-Saharan Africa and in selected countries of Central America, the onset of the fertility transition was driven by birth limitation at several parities. This balanced fertility decline was often maintained later on, leading to a strong heterogeneity in completed family size. In rural areas, fertility dropped because of a process of family limitation in both Asia and Latin America, but the parity-specific diffusion of stopping behaviors was faster in the former when compared to the latter continent. In sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, rural fertility decline remained concentrated at the highest parities. These important differences in behavioral changes are discussed with regards to the socioeconomic inequalities within cities and the remoteness of rural areas.


Presented in Session 1235: Posters