The Fertility Transition in Latin America

By JosÉ Miguel GuzmÁn; Susheela Singh et al. | Go to book overview

In addition to the contraceptive measures analysed earlier, Fig. 3.3 (and Table 3.4) includes information on education, a socio-economic variable that is strongly related to the development process. It is to be expected that higher education for women means a larger decline in fertility. However, the estimates indicate that this is not the case. Brazil, where family size is small, is not the country with the highest educational levels. Similarly, Colombia has larger overall percentages of women with low education, larger than in both Peru and Ecuador, which are societies with larger family sizes and more recent signs of a fertility transition. The lack of a clear trend is repeated even if one considers levels of schooling among women who married while still very young and those who did so at a later age. From this we may conclude that there is no clear relationship between women's educational levels and the stage of transition in the life cycle, even when the estimates are disaggregated by age at union.

Comparing the Dominican Republic, where there have been sharp reductions in family size, with Peru, where fertility is still relatively high and the transition towards small families is less advanced, it is remarkable that educational levels and rates of contraceptive practice are very similar for both countries.

This brief examination illustrates the strong connection that exists between type of contraceptive use and the process of family formation, and the absence of a direct relationship with one of the major socio-economic variables (female education). This should help us recognize the importance of the separation that is occurring between the social and the intermediate determinants of reproductive behaviour. Some of these last factors appear to be becoming more and more independent of the first ones. To explore these aspects further would require an exhaustive analysis of each country, involving the socio-economic determinants in a more complex way, linking them to the family formation process.


Conclusions

This detailed analysis of patterns of fertility transition in Latin America, measured by means of the parity progression ratio (Pn), allows us to observe the behaviour of couples throughout the different reproductive phases of their lives. Latin America presents a wide range of fertility transitions, showing changes at all birth orders beginning with the second. These are profound transformations, which completely modify the family cycle and its internal momentum. In Colombia, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic, there are similar declines at every interval in the proportion of women who continue to the next birth. On the basis of this analysis, we can group the countries according to their stage of transition. Going from more to less advanced, they can be ranked in the following order: Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Peru, and Ecuador. However, Ecuador, which began its transition more recently, is now showing signs of a more rapid transition than that of Peru.

This analysis of changes in family building over the past ten years demonstrates

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