HUGO TÓRREZ PINTO
Within the context of Latin America, Bolivia's pattern of demographic change has been quite distinctive. While many countries in the region are experiencing the pressure of rapid demographic growth, Bolivia's territory is sparsely settled, even though its regional distribution is uneven. The country's patterns of fertility, mortality, and migration have created a rate of population growth that is by no means the highest in the region. The data indicate that Bolivia's population increased over the last thirty-five years by only 130 per cent, whereas in the Andean region as a whole (excluding Colombia and Chile), the corresponding increase was over 180 per cent.
It is well known that fertility is one of the fundamental components of population growth. In Bolivia this demographic variable has revealed quite distinct patterns, when compared with the experience of other countries. In fact, in the thirty to thirty-five years prior to 1950, levels of fertility remained high and unchanging. However, this did not lead to rapid population growth, as occurred in other countries, because the high level of fertility was, and still is, accompanied by high levels of mortality, especially infant mortality.
Fertility and mortality are usually studied in association with other background characteristics, in an attempt to understand population phenomena within the context of a country's socio-economic, political, and cultural setting. In fact, many analysts believe that the demographic factors reflect wider social conditions, and are closely related to a country's socio-economic and cultural characteristics. Other analysts consider demographic variables to be phenomena that operate at the level of the individual, being exclusively biological determinants.
There have been only two national population censuses in Bolivia in the last forty years, and these were carried out in 1950 and 1976. In addition, national demographic surveys were conducted in 1975 and 1980. More recently, the National Population and Housing Survey in 1988 (NPHS-88) and the National Demographic and Health Survey in 1989 (NDHS-89) have been carried out. The present document will analyse patterns of Bolivian fertility over the past fifteen or twenty years in the light of the results of the last national census and the most recent surveys.