The demand for children in a natural fertility population

by Dennis N. De Tray

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Among competing theories attempting to explain fertility differentials are: the supply or natural fertility theories in which variations in fertility is said to result from family behavior and family characteristics not related to desires for children, and demand theories in which costs and benefits of children are postulated to affect fertility outcomes. This paper is concerned with distinguishing between these two theories. The author demonstrates that demand-based theories cannot be ruled out by arguing that couples in developing countries do not appear to think rationally or even consciously about the number of children they want. Problems associated with distinguishing empirically between these two theories are discussed, and one attempt to test which theory fits the facts in Pakistan is given based on the observed negative correlation between a wife's schooling and the number of children she has. Results strongly suggest that demand considerations do affect completed fertility and thus should not be overlooked.

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