JOSÉ ALBERTO MAGNO DE CARVALHO and LAURA RODRÍGUEZ WONG
Brazil has proceeded through the 1980s and is approaching the twenty-first century while undergoing one of the greatest transformations in its demographic history, led by an unprecedented, rapid, and universal decline in fertility. The objective of the present chapter is to discuss this change, some of its determinants, and its most important consequences. More than simply an analysis of new data or recent discoveries, this chapter is a summary of the discussions which this unexpected behaviour has stimulated among students of the current Brazilian situation.
For this purpose a brief overview is given of the historical and socio-economic context in which this transformation in fertility behaviour occurred. A description of the varied path followed by fertility during the period between 1940 and 1985 is presented, along with the reaction of fertility behaviour to the particular style of socio-economic development being experienced in the country. In addition, to clarify the fact that such changes are giving rise to structural transformations in the composition of the population, some attention is paid to the strength of their impact. Emphasis is placed both on the demographic consequences, for example, the destabilization of the age structure, as well as on the alterations required in policies aimed at children, the aged, the labour-market, etc.
Given that all phenomena of demographic dynamics are embedded in a specific social and economic framework, general reference should be made here to the context within which the Brazilian population profile is drawn, to serve as background for the study of the evolution of fertility which follows. Also, since this is the variable which in large measure determines the demographic structure of a population, it is convenient to include in this section a description, however superficial, of the demographic behaviour of the country during the period in question.