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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by the Andrew W.Mellon Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Population, under award no. CCP-A-0095–00024–02. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Diffusion processes and fertility transition: selected perspectives/ Committee on Population; John B.Casterline, editor; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-309-07610-2 (pbk.)
1. Communication in birth control—Developing countries—Congresses. 2. Fertility, Human—Developing countries—Congresses. I. Casterline, John. II. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Population. III. National Research Council (U.S.). Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.
HQ766.5.D44 D54 2001
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2001). Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Selected Perspectives. Committee on Population. John B.Casterline, Ed. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
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COMMITTEE ON POPULATION
JANE MENKEN (Chair),
Institute of Behavioral Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder
Population Division, United Nations, New York
Department of Economics, University of California, Los Angeles
Population Investigation Committee,
London School of Economics
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Department of Demography, Georgetown University
Department of Anthropology, Brown University
Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
The Population Council, New York
Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
Center for Demography and Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostok, Germany
Department of Demography, University of California, Berkeley
Population Research Center, University of Chicago
BARNEY COHEN, Director
The past fifty or so years have witnessed phenomenal changes in the fertility behavior of couples in most developing countries—a dramatic shift away from an environment in which large families were the norm and few couples practiced any form of contraception to a situation today in which smaller families are the norm and most couples know and use some form of contraception. Before 1960, substantial improvements in life expectancy were achieved but fertility declines were rare. Indeed there is some evidence to suggest that levels of childbearing rose in many countries, developed as well as developing, in the fifteen years following World War II.
Since 1960, total fertility rates (TFRs) have fallen in virtually every major geographic region of the world, transcending political, social, cultural, economic, ethnic, and religious boundaries. For example, in 1970, women in South Asia could be expected to bear 6 children over their reproductive lives. Today, the figure is down to 4.2 children per woman. In Latin America and the Caribbean, fertility fell by more than 2 children per woman over the same period: from a TFR of 5.2 in 1970 down to 3.1 in 1991. Only in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa has fertility remained consistently high.
What factors are responsible for the sharp decline in fertility? Despite extensive debate and controversy over the past twenty years, the factors responsible for fertility decline are still not fully understood. Demographers have struggled to explain differences in the timing and speed of fertility transitions between countries and the contribution of prior mortality decline, socioeconomic change, organized family planning programs,
and the diffusion of various norms and ideals related to childbearing to these differences.
In 1995, the National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on Population initiated a research program to review what was known at that time about the determinants of fertility transition in developing countries and to identify policy-oriented lessons that might lead to policies aimed at lowering fertility. As part of that program, the committee organized a workshop called “Social Processes Underlying Fertility Change in Developing Countries” to learn more about the roles of diffusion processes, ideational change, social networks, and mass communications in changing behavior and values, especially as related to childbearing. There has been increased interest over the past few years within the demographic community concerning the role of diffusion processes in the fertility transition. A new body of empirical research is currently emerging from studies of social networks in Asia (Thailand, Taiwan, Korea), Latin America (Costa Rica), and Sub-Saharan Africa (Kenya, Malawi, Ghana). Given the potential significance of social interactions to the design of effective family planning programs in high-fertility settings, efforts to synthesize this emerging body of literature are clearly important.
The papers in this volume were first presented at the Committee on Population Workshop on Social Processes Underlying Fertility Change in Developing Countries, which was held January 29 and 30, 1998, in Washington, D.C. The workshop was supported by the Andrew W.Mellon Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Population.
The Committee on Population is grateful to the many individuals who made substantive and productive contributions to the project. Most important, we are indebted to the authors of the papers for their willingness to participate and to contribute their special knowledge. The committee is also grateful to past and present members John Bongaarts, John Casterline, Mark Montgomery, and Alberto Palloni, who served on a subcommittee (chaired by John Casterline) that assumed responsibility for organizing this workshop. In addition, the committee thanks Steven Sinding, who attended one of the planning meetings and provided valuable advice. The committee would also like to acknowledge the role of the NRC staff who managed the workshop: Barney Cohen, project director; LaTanya Johnson and Brian Tobachnick, project assistants; and Laura Penny, contract editor.
The papers have been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments to assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the purpose of the activity. The committee thanks the following individuals for their participation in
the review of the papers in this report: Charles Hirschman, University of Washington; Ronald Rindfuss, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Thomas W.Valente, University of Southern California. Although these individuals provided constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this volume rests solely with the authoring committee and the NRC.
Jane Menken, Chair
Committee on Population
Diffusion Processes and Fertility Transition: Introduction
Diffusion in Sociological Analysis
Social Interactions and Fertility Transitions
Learning and Using New Ideas: A Sociocognitive Perspective
Mass Media and Fertility Change
Ready, Willing, and Able: A Conceptualization of Transitions to New Behavioral Forms