MPIDR Working Paper

The emergence and diffusion of birth limitation in urban areas of developing countries

Lerch, M.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2020-014, 41 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (April 2020)
Open Access


The rising heterogeneity of women in terms of family size over the course of the fertilitytransition challenges the classic hypothesis about the diffusion of birth limiting behaviors acrossparities, known as family limitation. We evaluate whether birth limitation diffused sequentiallyfrom upper to lower parities during the onset and unfolding of the urban fertility transition in 27developing countries. Relying on multiple surveys and censuses, we decompose long-termdeclines in cohort fertility into the parity-specific contributions, and propose two new summaryindicators for international comparison. The results challenge the hypothesis of family limitation.We find a significant international variation in the parities at which birth limitation initiallyemerges, in the direction of its subsequent diffusion to other parities, as well as in the extent towhich the limiting behavior is generalized across all parity groups. We finally discuss theinternational heterogeneity in the patterns of emergence and diffusion of birth limitation, anddraw theoretical conclusions and societal implications.

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.