11 - Fertility Transition

11 - Fertility Transition - SOCI 121 Population Problems...

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SOCI 121: Population Problems T HE F ERTILITY T RANSITION Objectives: Discuss the Fertility Transition Describe the characteristics of high and low fertility societies Discuss the motivations for low fertility Class Notes: The Fertility Transition The fertility transition is the shift from high fertility, in which there is only minimal individual deliberate control, to low – perhaps very low – fertility, which is entirely under a woman’s (or more generally a couple’s) control. o It has been summarized as the shift from “family building by fate” to “family building by design.” o The transition almost always involves a delay in childbearing to older ages (at least beyond the teen years) and also an earlier end to childbearing. o To control fertility does not necessarily mean to limit it, yet almost everywhere you go in the world, the two concepts are nearly synonymous. This suggests that as mortality declines and the survival of children and their parents is assured, people generally want relatively small families, and the wider the range of means available to accomplish that goal, the greater the chance of success. High Fertility Societies Before we are ready to ask why the fertility transition occurs, it is useful to remind ourselves of why fertility is high in the first place. For the first 99 percent of human history, mortality was very high. o Only those societies with sufficiently high fertility managed to survive over the years. There may have been lower-fertility societies in the past, but we know nothing about them because they did not reproduce themselves. Societies that did survive instituted multiple inducements – pronatalist pressures – to encourage the appropriate level of reproduction. Among these inducements are the need to replenish society, the value of children as security and labor, and the desire for sons. I will discuss each in turn. o The need to replenish society. A crucial aspect of high mortality is that a baby’s chances of surviving to adulthood are not very good. Yet if a society is going to replace itself, an average of at least two children for every woman must survive long enough to be able to produce more children. 1
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SOCI 121: Population Problems o In light of this, societies everywhere have developed social institutions to encourage childbearing and reward parenthood in various ways. Social pressures are not actually defined in terms of the need to replace society, and an individual would likely not recognize them for what they are. The societal disconnection between infant and child mortality and reproductive behavior explains why at the individual level there is not much evidence of a relationship between infant deaths in a family and the number of children born to those parents. Premodern groups accepted high mortality, especially among children,
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11 - Fertility Transition - SOCI 121 Population Problems...

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