JUAN CHACKIEL and SUSANA SCHKOLNIK
In the 1950s and early 1960s, Latin America had the world's highest rate of population growth, averaging 2.8 per cent a year. This rapid growth rate was due to sharp declines in mortality in various countries of the region, as fertility remained high and even increasing, in many countries. The TFR was approximately 6 children per woman, and was higher than 7 children per woman in several countries.
This situation led to rapid rates of population growth, which meant that fertility levels became a political issue. For that reason, there were innumerable studies of the relationship between population growth and economic development. Many such studies concluded that rapid growth was an obstacle to improved living standards. Within a relatively few years, family planning programmes expanded in both the private and the public sector, spreading knowledge of contraceptive methods and providing services to an ever-growing number of women. Today, these programmes tend to be more closely linked to the goals of improved maternal and child health and to the rights of the couple to have access to the means to plan the number of children they wish to have.
In the second half of the 1960s, the fertility transition began to occur in some countries, and gradually this process extended to almost the entire region. Within a period of only twenty years, overall fertility declined by 40 per cent, although this implies a reduction in the population growth rate of approximately 20 per cent, because of the very young age structure of the population and the continuing decline in mortality rates.
The process of fertility change has assumed very different forms both among and within different countries. In the period 1960-5, the TFR ranged from 2.9 to 7.5 children per woman, and the range was even wider in some sub-populations with widely differing living conditions.
One of the purposes of this chapter is to describe the way in which fertility has evolved since 1950 to the present day for the region as a whole. However, the more basic aim is to show the diversity that exists in patterns of change in the various countries. The report documents the status of the fertility transition for each country, as well as the way in which changes in overall and age-specific