Academic journal article Population

The Iranian Fertility Decline, 1981-1999: An Application of the Synthetic Parity Progression Ratio Method

Academic journal article Population

The Iranian Fertility Decline, 1981-1999: An Application of the Synthetic Parity Progression Ratio Method

Article excerpt

The conventional age-based measures of fertility are age-specific fertility rates and their sum over all ages, the total fertility rate. Based on these measures, the fertility transition in Iran passed through different phases from 1972 to 2000. After the implementation in 1966 of the first family planning programme, the total fertility rate reportedly declined from around 7.7 in 1966 (Amani, 1970) to around 6.5 in 1976 (Aghajanian and Mehryar, 1999). Despite the approval of family planning methods by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, the pre-revolutionary family planning programme was allowed to peter out after the revolution. Although no specific population policy was introduced, the new government adopted policies that were effectively pronatalist. Soon after the revolution, the legal minimum ages at marriage for girls and boys were reduced from 15 and 18 to 13 and 15 years, respectively (Azimi, 1981). Later, during the war with Iraq, families were encouraged to have more children and substantial economic incentives were provided (Abbasi-Shavazi et al., 2002). In apparent response, the total fertility rose and hovered around seven children per woman in the first half of the 1980s.

Despite the post-revolutionary pronatalist ideology, the high fertility regime was short-lived and fertility fell to about 6.3 births per woman in 1986 and further to around 5.5 in 1988. After the government population policy was reversed and a new family planning programme was officially inaugurated in December 1989, the total fertility rate fell sharply, again in apparent response, dropping from 5.5 in 1988 to around 2.8 in 1996, an almost 50% decrease in six years (Figure 1) (Ladier-Faloudi, 1997). The 2000 Iran Demographic and Health Survey (IDHS) indicated that the fertility rate had declined further by 2000, reaching the nearreplacement level of 2.2. A very detailed description of these trends at national, provincial and urban and rural levels is given in Abbasi-Shavazi and McDonald (2005). Overall, as described, the time trends in the total fertility rate can be associated fairly precisely with cross-sectional political or policy changes.

During the period 1976-2000, the general trend was for age-specific fertility rates to move in the same direction as the total fertility rate at all ages. When the fertility rate rose, it rose at all ages; when it fell, it fell at all ages. However, the rise in the early 1980s was somewhat more concentrated in the peak ages of childbearing, especially in the 25-29 age group (Abbasi-Shavazi and McDonald, 2005). Thus, in overall terms, the trends in age-specific fertility rates also suggest that fertility changes can be attributed to cross-sectional social and political changes, as described for the total fertility rate.

After presenting the method of fertility measurement using synthetic parity progression ratios (PPRs), a series of questions are addressed. Are the close associations between trends in period fertility and social and political changes confirmed by analysis using parity progression ratios? What additional insights are gained using the synthetic parity approach? From the perspective of trends in these alternative measures, will Iran's fertility continue to decline, will it level off, or will fertility increase in the future?

I. Fertility measurement using synthetic parity progression ratios

The fact that fertility fell in all age groups during the decline suggests that simultaneously young couples were starting their childbearing later, married women were lengthening the interval between births, and older women were stopping their childbearing. The simultaneity of these patterns of change would explain the very sharp fall in period fertility that has occurred in Iran since the late 1980s, but it also indicates that the timing of births has been changing. The age-based model is not informative with regard to changes in the timing of successive births.

Age-specific fertility rates (and their sum, the total fertility rate) use age as a controlling or standardizing factor because the age structure of the population changes from year to year. …

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