The Fertility Transition in Latin America

By José Miguel Guzmán; Susheela Singh et al. | Go to book overview

12 Wanted Fertility in Latin America: Trends and Differentials in Seven Countries*

JOHN BONGAARTS and ROBERT LIGHTBOURNE


Introduction

Over the past three decades fertility has declined rapidly in Latin America. According to the most recent United Nations estimates, the TFR of the continent fell from over 6 births per woman in the 1950s to 3.6 in the late 1980s. The rate of change in fertility since the mid-1970s has been more rapid than in any other major region of the developing world ( United Nations 1989).

To obtain further insight into the determinants of recent fertility declines in Latin American countries, this chapter examines variation in wanted fertility, both within countries and between countries, and also over time. Specifically, we compare actual fertility as measured by the total fertility rate with preferred fertility as measured by a new wanted total fertility rate developed by Bongaarts ( 1990) which reflects the fertility level that would prevail if women were to fully implement their preferences for terminating childbearing. Through examining these two indicators, we analyse trends in actual and preferred fertility at the aggregate national level and also by level of education and rural-urban residence.

The data for our analysis are taken from fertility surveys undertaken in the period 1975-89. The seven countries included are Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Jamaica, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago. For each country, two surveys are available, the first invariably being a WFS, and the second usually being a DHS, except for Costa Rica and Jamaica. Since the first wave of surveys took place between 1975 and 1980 and the second wave between 1986 and 1989, the time elapsed between the first and second survey rounds is on average a decade (see Table 12.1). All these surveys measure fertility, reproductive preferences, education, and place of residence. With only minor exceptions these variables are measured in the same way in all the surveys. The results are therefore reasonably comparable across both time and space.

This chapter contains four main sections. First, an outline of the methodology is presented. This is followed by a summary of trends and differentials in actual fertility. The third section describes trends and differentials in wanted fertility. The fourth section provides conclusions.

____________________
*
Financial support for this study was provided by NIH Grant R01-HD-23138.

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