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    A fresh look at the threshold hypothesis of fertility change in ESCAP region

    Pathak KB; Murthy PK

    Demography India. 1984 Jan-Dec; 13(1-2):153-67.

    The threshold hypothesis shares with transition theory the basic assumption that a decline in fertility is interrelated with a decline in mortality and change in the social, economic, and cultural conditions of the population. However, threshold theory fails to formulate a causal chain between fertility and the other variables and its application at the aggregate country level is limited by intracountry heterogeneity in cultural and social variables. Problematic is the fixing of the timing for a country of a decline in fertility to be inferred from the fact that some indicators of development have reached the threshold zone while others have not. This paper attempts to develope a combined index for socioeconomic development on the basis of data from 12 countries of the ESCAP region of South East Asia. Variables included were life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate, adult female literacy, percentages of females economically active, GNP per capita, and percentage urban population. In 1970, 3 of the countries analyzed had a crude birth rate below 25, 6 countries had a rate between 25-40, and 3 had a rate above 40. The lowest value of the index recorded for countries of low fertility (crude birth rate below 25) and the highest value recorded for countries of high fertility (above 40) are taken as the threshold zones for the overall index. The number of countries in the threshold range increased from 5 in 1970 to 8 in 1975. With the increase in the index value, a reduction in the fertility level was noted. In contrast, where socioeconomic development was slow, fertility showed little change. Policy makers could use this system to assess which indicator could be pushed through to raise the overall index of development so as to effect a decline in fertility.
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