The fertility decline in developing countries.

Robey B; Rutstein SO; Morris L

The demographic transition in the more developed, Western nations from high mortality and high fertility to low mortality and low fertility transpired gradually over many decades. Given that modern methods of contraception had yet to be invented, educational levels were low, and mass communication was limited, most couples relied upon sexual abstinence, withdrawal, and/or abortion to limit fertility. These obstacles were eliminated over time and the desire for smaller families soon became deeply rooted throughout most Western countries. In recent years, this desire has spread rapidly among women in the developing world. The trend cuts across cultural, political, social, and economic lines. In fact, the average rate of total fertility in developing countries has declined from 6 to 4 since the mid-1960s. This transition has occurred far faster than that observed in the more economically developed and industrialized countries, and had taken place even in the absence of improved living conditions. While economic development and social change create supportive conditions in which fertility may decline, the promotion and availability of modern contraceptive methods are the most important engines of change. Fertility has declined so rapidly in developing countries because of the existence and availability of modern contraceptive technologies, growing levels of educational attainment, mass media, and the assistance of governments and donor agencies in developing and implementing family planning programs. The author discusses the demographic transitions of both developed and developing countries, and stresses the need for the maintenance and expansion of family planning programs around the world.

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