The impact of freedom on fertility transition: revisiting the theoretical framework

Martha M Campbell, University of California, Berkeley
Ndola Prata, University of California, Berkeley
Malcolm Potts, University of California, Berkeley

This paper suggests that the reduction of the many barriers that separate women from the technologies and information they need to manage whether and when they have a child may provide a plausible explanation for the timing and pace of fertility decline. We are proposing a theory, or framework, suggesting that a latent desire for controlling their family size may be widespread among women, who tend to act upon it only when they perceive the costs of seeking or using fertility regulation methods to be lower than the benefits, and when they recognize that they actually have options about their childbearing. While clearly there are other influential factors, reduced barriers to fertility regulation methods along with supporting information – and diffusion/innovation theory – may be the factor most consistently associated with rapid fertility decline, and possibly this relationship is more causal than has been recognized.

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Presented in Session 24: New theoretical frameworks in demography