This paper presents an empirical analysis of fertility in the developing world, demonstrating that fertility reductions can be attributed to a number of important explanatory variables, particularly those related to health status, gender inequalities in literacy, and household income. The paper adds to the expansive literature on fertility by exploring whether differing levels of success in effecting the demographic transition can be attributed to these explanatory variables. The data used are from 57 developing nations and cover the time period 1975-2014.
The bulk of fertility research—or research surrounding which factors influence women’s decisions to have children—was conducted in the mid-twentieth century, when women joined the labor force at unprecedented rates and drastically altered the nature of the United States economy. Very little research has been conducted since. This study therefore aims to generate a contemporary fertility model in order to determine how the factors influencing women’s fertility decisions have changed since the 1950s, especially considering how women’s rights and the traditional family structure have changed since the 1950s. Using a probit regression model, it is found that a woman’s age, marital status, race, education, employment status, and income all significantly impact her likelihood of having a child. It is also found that, contrary to findings from the mid-twentieth century, extrinsic variables such as spouse’s income, women’s wages relative to men’s, and relative economic aspirations do not impact women’s decisions to have children. The results of this study therefore suggest that the factors influencing women’s fertility decisions have in fact changed since the mid-twentieth century—changes likely attributable to women’s increased independence, both in terms of the economy and the structure of the family.