LORENZO MORENO and SUSHEELA SINGH
The transition in fertility, while varying in degree across countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, is being achieved by changes in the proximate determinants, through which any other social change must operate. Categorization of these determinants began with a model developed by Davis and Blake ( 1956), where the aim was to identify all factors that intervened between the norms and social structure of a society and its level of fertility (hence the term intervening or proximate variables). This scheme identified three groups of factors: those related to exposure to the risk of pregnancy, to conception, and to gestation. Subsequently, researchers found that an important variable-post-partum infecundity --was not taken into account in this early model. Later developments expanded the list to include to this factor, and narrowed the full set of eleven factors to focus only on those which were both major determinants of the level of fertility and,at the same time, varied across population groups: marriage, contraception, post- partum infecundity, and abortion. Most analyses of the proximate determinants, including this one, consider only three factors: marriage, contraception, and post-partum infecundity; abortion is usually omitted because of the lack of information on the subject.
While each of determinants have played a role in fertility change in Latin America, it is also clear, at the simplest level, that increases in contraceptive use have accounted for the greatest part of the decline in fertility in Latin America. By comparison, marriage patterns and breast-feeding duration have changed little in absolute terms. However, these three factors are interrelated, and their relative contribution to the level of fertility and fertility change may vary depending upon the absolute level of fertility itself. The aim of this chapter is to examine the changes in the relative contribution of the three main proximate determinants as fertility declined in Latin America.____________________