MPIDR Working Paper

Urban and rural fertility transitions in the developing world: a cohort perspective

Lerch, M.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2017-011, 26 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (May 2017)
Open Access


Although the role of urbanization in fertility decline remains debated, few studies have assessed long-term fertility trends by urban/rural place of residence. Relying on successive surveys for 55 countries, we analyze the diffusion of cohort fertility decline in urban and rural areas across Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. We show that, once the fertility transition is initiated, the decline in urban areas is similarly fast in all three continents. The pattern of the urban-to-rural diffusion of birth limitation, however, has differed significantly. In Latin American and Caribbean countries, the evolution in the rural-urban fertility differentials followed an inverted U-shaped pattern over the fertility transition. In Asia, the differences remained more limited, because of a parallel decline in fertility by type of place of residence, whereas in Africa they increased monotonically because rural areas have not yet experienced significant fertility declines. The implications of these results for urban population projections and for our understanding of the international variations in the pace of fertility transition are discussed.

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.