Academic journal article Population

Fertility Transition in India between 1977 and 2004: Analysis Using Parity Progression Ratios

Academic journal article Population

Fertility Transition in India between 1977 and 2004: Analysis Using Parity Progression Ratios

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

While a large body of literature has addressed fertility decline in India and its major states, no study has focused on fertility changes by parity during the course of the fertility transition. In addition, in comparison to China, whose fertility levels and trends have been the object of intense scrutiny and debate in the demographic literature, fertility levels and trends in India have not been examined in detail. It is generally accepted that fertility decline in India started in the 1970s, falling from about 5.5-6 children per women in the early 1970s to around half that level thirty years later (Bhat et al., 1984; Preston and Bhat, 1984; Bhat, 1998; Dyson, 2001; Visaria, 2004). Yet little is known about fertility changes by parity during the fertility transition, although as fertility declines one would expect the main changes to be parity-specific, with a reduction of higher-order births.

This note analyses fertility changes by parity in India since 1977, taking advantage of nearly 300,000 birth histories collected in three nationally representative sample surveys, the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS). The aim of this study is thus not to discuss in depth the influence of population policy and family planning programmes on parity progression ratios in India, as has been done for China (Feeney and Wang, 1993), but rather to offer a detailed description of the changes affecting childbearing across the country. There are two reasons for this choice. First, since India currently accounts for about one sixth of humanity, the changes affecting parity-specific fertility are of great interest per se. Second, as Dyson (2002, p. 398) noted, "the control over family planning activities has increasingly become the province of individual state governments, rather than of the central government in Delhi". This recent development makes a national level analysis of the influence of national family planning programmes more difficult to conduct for India as a whole.

The findings presented here should nonetheless be interpreted in the light of developments in Indian population policies and family planning programmes presented elsewhere (Dyson, 2004; Srinivasan, 2006), as well as in the perspective of the major improvements in education, female autonomy, social and economic development, etc., that have occurred in India over the last 25 years (Dyson et al., 2004).

To the best of the author's knowledge, the only parity progression analysis of Indian fertility so far conducted at the country level using nationally representative survey data was based on the 1992-1993 National Family Health Survey (Gandotra et al., 1998). Besides this study, data from the NFHS-1 were used by Kulkarni and Choe (1998) to propose new parity progression-based measures of wanted and unwanted fertility in selected Indian States, and by Mutharayappa et al. (1997) to examine how son preference influences parity progression in India as a whole and in individual states. While these studies provide parity progression ratios at national and state levels, they do so only for the three-year period immediately preceding the survey. However, as we shall see, this choice of a three-year period before the survey is problematic in the case of India. This paper offers a longer perspective on fertility changes by parity over the last 25 years (i.e. from 1977 to 2004).

The paper begins by presenting the data and the problems associated with the use of birth histories collected in the NFHS. It then describes the method used to assess the fertility changes by parity. Results are given for the progression from the first to the sixth birth and the impact of data quality is briefly discussed. Average lifetime parity is then computed and compared to fertility estimates based on the Sample Registration System (SRS) in order to assess the consistency of the results of the parity-based analysis, but also to consider the quality of the SRS estimates. …

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