Human Fertility in Latin America: Sociological Perspectives

By J. Mayone Stycos | Go to book overview

17 Urbanization and Fertility in Latin America

Much has been made of Latin America's rapid urbanization as a forerunner of declining fertility. It is true that with a quarter of its population residing in places of 20,000 or more in 1950, Latin America's level of urbanization compares favorably with such countries as Greece, Hungary, or Lebanon. However, the recency of this extensive urbanization is often overlooked. Around the start of the century "the only countries with more than 10 percent of their total population in cities of 20,000 or more were Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Cuba."1Venezuela, which by 1950 had a third of its population in cities, had only 7 percent in 1920, and 17 percent in 1936. Secondly, we must not neglect the fact that most countries are still primarily agricultural. As late as 1950, only five nations had less than half their active population engaged in agriculture. Finally, urbanization is of a particular kind in Latin America, one in which heavy concentrations of power, people, and culture occur in one city or very few cities,2 where service occupations predominate along

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1
H. L. Browning, "Recent Trends in Latin American Urbanization," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, CCCXVI ( March 1958), III.
2
One evidence of this is the high primacy pattern. "No other world region displays so consistently the pattern in which the primary or first city is many times larger than the second city…in 16 countries the first city is at least 3.7 times larger than the second city," and in 8 countries at least 7 times larger. Browning, op. cit., 114-15.

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