Below-Replacement Fertility in India: An Analysis of the Proximate Determinants of Low Fertility

A. Dharmalingam, University of Waikato
S. Philip Morgan, Duke University
Sowmya Rajan, Duke University

We use data from three waves of the National Family Health Survey from India to document recent trends in fertility levels in India and to update our knowledge on the mechanisms behind state variation in fertility. We use the conceptual framework proposed by Bongaarts (2001) for studying the proximate determinants of low fertility to explain variations across time in state fertility. The low fertility proximate determinants framework has at its core the incongruence between stated preferences and observed fertility. Proximate determinants that enhance or depress fertility relative to preferences include: unwanted fertility, child mortality, gender preference, which can increase fertility relative to intentions; the tempo effect, sub-fecundity and competition for children which can reduce fertility relative to intentions. We expect unwanted fertility and the tempo effect of rising mean age at childbearing to contribute substantially to the variation in state-level fertility and to India’s transition to a low fertility regime.

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Presented in Session 176: Perspectives on Fertility in Asia