The Fertility Transition in Latin America

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

14 Social Change and Transitions in the Life Histories of Colombian Woman

CARMEN ELISA FLÓREZ


Introduction

Modernization can be defined as a basic transformation in a country's economic and social organization. Economic aspects of this transformation include a sustained increase in real per capita income, and significant changes in the industrial, occupational, and geographic distribution of productive resources, as well as in the degree to which the economy is monetarized. Modernization also implies dramatic social changes, principally in education, public health services, and levels of urbanization. The economic and social changers generate changes in human behaviour, for example greater freedom from paternal authority, higher ambitions for individual advancement and for the advancement of one's children, as well as changes in demographic behaviour, including fertility, mortality, and migration, and, as a result, family structure.

The best-known change in demographic behaviour associated with modermization is the movement from high to low levels of mortality and fertility, a process known as the 'demographic transition'. A decline in mortality usually precedes a decline in fertility. The drop in fertility is usually accompanied by conscious limitation of family size and has been formally conceptualized as an evolution from a 'natural fertility regime' to one of deliberate fertility control ( Easterlin 1983). Although this 'fertility transition' has accompanied the modernization process in all societies, the connection between the two processes is not very clear. As various authors have pointed out, fertility transitions have occurred under a wide range of conditions, in societies at different levels of modernization, and they have occurred at widely differing rates of change ( Coale 1973; Knodel and van de Walle 1979).

The most common approaches to identifying the relationship between the modernization process and fertility transition are: (1) multivariate regression analyses between fertility and measures that reflect various aspects of social and economic modernization (education, urbanization, etc.), along with other possible determinants such as cultural conditions (race, religion, etc.) ( Richards 1983); (2) analysis of the 'proximate determinants', in which modernization affects fertility only indirectly, through three groups of intermediate factors or variables: exposure to the risk of pregnancy, to conception, and to birth ( Davis and

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