The Fertility Transition in Latin America

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

22 The Fertility Transition in Cuba

SONIA CATASÚS CERVERA and JUAN CARLOS ALFONSO FRAGA


Background

The evolution of the fertility of Cuban women has shown interesting and somewhat singular characteristics throughout the period of demographic transition in the Cuban population, and has obviously been a principal factor in this transition. In fact, Cuba's fertility transition within its process of demographic transition has been described by most demographers and other social science researchers as being early within the Latin American context ( Hernández 1984); in addition, this process became more advanced and intense after the Revolution of 1959. For these reasons its study is of particular interest to researchers in Cuba as well as to those from other countries. This chapter summarizes the main aspects of this process, placing special emphasis on the socio-economic factors which condition it, as well as on the proximate determinants.

At the present time the population of Cuba is estimated to be approximately 10.6 million inhabitants, and its rate of growth during recent years is around 1 per cent per annum, undeniably one of the lowest in Latin America (SSC 1989). Fertility has a decisive influence on the dynamics of this behaviour. For the past ten years, Cuba's gross reproduction ratio (GRR) has been continuously below unity. In 1981 its estimated value reached a minimum of 0.78 daughters per woman, while by 1987 there had been a slight rise to 0.88. Mortality as well shows very low levels, as reflected in a life expectancy at birth for both sexes combined of 74.3 years for the period 1983-4 (over 76 years for women). The rate of infant mortality in 1989 was 11.1 deaths under the age of I year per 1,000 live births (SSC 1989).

Cuba is an urbanized country, with more than 72 per cent of its population residing in urban areas and with a population density of about 96 inhabitants per square kilometre. The population is ageing, with more than 12 per cent over the age of 60 years, and an average age which is rising: 27.0 and 29.5 in 1970 and 1981 respectively and 32 years by 1988.

Cuban demographic statistics are accepted internationally as solid and reliable, and numerous evaluations which have been carried out confirm this (SSC and CELADE 1978: 25). Nevertheless, even a good system of vital statistics cannot provide detailed information on demographic behaviour. For this reason it was decided, in 1987, to conduct the National Fertility Survey, interviewing 4,500

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