Journal Article

Regional variations in the rural-urban fertility gradient in the global South

Lerch, M.
PLOS One, 14:7, e0219624 (2019)
Open Access


The study of regional trends in the rural-urban fertility gradient helps us to understand the pace of completion of the fertility transition and the geography of urban growth in the global South. We question whether the hypothesized inverted U-shaped evolution in rural excess fertility is confirmed in four developing regions, and investigate the underlying fertility dynamics by place of residence. Using multiple surveys for 60 developing countries, we analyze long-term rural and urban trends in cohort fertility. The regional comparison is controlled for the international heterogeneity in the stages attained in the fertility transition and the context of urbanization. We found a clearly inverted U-shaped trend in the rural-urban fertility gradient in Latin America, the Middle East and Northern Africa. In Asia, rural excess fertility remained limited. In sub-Saharan Africa it increased monotonically until the most recent cohorts. These differences stem from variations in the urban-to-rural diffusion of the onset of fertility transition and, in sub-Saharan Africa, from a slower pace of decline in rural areas.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.