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    Income, aspirations, and fertility in rural areas of less developed countries

    Mueller E

    In: Rural development and human fertility, edited by Wayne A. Schutjer and C. Shannon Stokes. New York, N.Y., Macmillan, 1984. 121-50.

    This chapter examines the effect of changing income on fertility in rural areas, focusing particular attention on 2 variables which intervene between income and fertility: educational aspirations and consumption aspirations. The chapter's 1st part considers the income/fertility relation in rural areas of less developed countries. (LDCs). It appears that in rural areas at the micro level the effect of income on fertility is nonlinear: positive at low levels of income and negative at relatively high levels. The chapter's 2nd part deals with educational aspirations and the so-called quantity/quality tradeoff. The 3rd part of the chapter examines the hypothesis that a negative income/fertility relationship is more likely once a transformation of consumption aspirations has occurred. Some macrolevel evidence is considered along with microlevel studies. Review of the empirical evidence concerning the income/fertility relation in LDCs indicates that the relation is negative in urban areas and in rural areas where development is relatively advanced, but positive in rural areas at earlier stages of development. The pure positive income effect may be reinforced by indirect positive effects in poor rural populations. In such populations, income increases may lead to better health, nutrition, and higher survival rates among women of childbearing age. In addition, rising income may lead to more optimistic expectations concerning permanent income, and, in some countries, rural women may withdraw from the labor force or reduce work inputs when the farm earns more money. At later stages of rural development, negative indirect effects of increasing income on fertility may outweigh positive effects. Rising educational and consumption patterns are among these potential negative indirect effects, but there are others, particularly the anticipation of declining economic benefits from children. The observed income/fertility pattern suggests first that aspirations respond more strongly to income advances in urban than in rural settings and during later than during earlier phases of rural development. It also suggests that the sensitivity of fertility to rising aspirations may be quite low in traditional rural societies. This 2nd proposition derives support from an analysis of the quantity/quality tradeoff. The depressing effect of consumption aspirations on fertility seem to be modest, yet it appears that a policy of austerity with regard to new consumer goods may make it more difficult to lower birthrates. Investment aspirations have been neglected in the literature. A policy of creating conditions conducive to investment in nonhuman capital for a broad spectrum of rural household is desirable in its own right. If high investment aspirations also lowered birthrates, they would represent a doubly valuable policy goal.
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