Against the odds: the changing impact of schooling on female autonomy and fertility in an Indian village.

Vlassoff C
In: Girls' schooling, women's autonomy and fertility change in South Asia, edited by Roger Jeffery and Alaka M. Basu. New Delhi, India, Sage Publications, 1996. 218-34.

This study of the changing impact of female schooling on female autonomy and fertility was based on focus groups and surveys conducted at two time periods in Indian villages. The first time period was a 9-month period during 1975-76. The second time period was in 1987. Data pertained to a sample of unmarried girls aged 13-18 and a sample of married women aged 15-26 years. The analysis of married women focused on the relationship between traditional attitudes, fertility, and contraception. The analysis of adolescents favored the role of schooling and changes in knowledge over the 12 intervening years. Autonomy is measured as girls' participation in choice of a marriage partner, approval of dowry, the role of women in the purchase of a sari, and exposure to the outside world. Findings indicate that levels of schooling increased over time. Adolescent girls had higher average schooling in both time periods. The numbers attending and staying increased over time. Married girls showed an increase in schooling which was not as great as for adolescent girls. Adolescent girls scored higher on all measures of autonomy in 1987. One striking difference in an autonomy measure was the greater propensity in 1987 of adolescent girls to disapprove of dowry than young married females. Adolescents perceived that their mothers were more involved in domestic decisions in 1987. There were few differences in the frequency of travel to the district capital in both time periods, regardless of the improved bus service. Fertility goals were low and similar in both time periods and among both groups of women. The relationships between schooling and autonomy were weak in both time periods for adolescents. By 1987 there was no relationship between schooling and desired fertility among adolescents. Findings do not support a causal relationship between female schooling, greater female autonomy, and lower fertility. Schooling was equated with prestige and not autonomy.

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