Dissertation Abstracts

Fertility Decline in Orissa since the 1970s: Transition in Conditions of Low Development

Author: Sahoo, Harihar , hariharsahoo@gmail.com
Department: Centre for the Study of Regional Development
University: Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
Supervisor: Prof. P.M. Kulkarni
Year of completion: 2011
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Fertility , India , Low Development , Contraception
Areas of Research: Population , Health , Regional and Urban Development


As in many developing countries, fertility transition is in progress in India. But the timing has varied over space. As a result, different states are at different stages of transition. Although the transitions in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have received wide attention both at the national and international level, the nature and extent of decline in fertility in Orissa and the factors responsible for it are little investigated. Orissa, seems to be a counter example to many of the widely accepted hypotheses that low infant mortality rate, high female literacy, good economic conditions are a must for the fertility decline. Its fertility pattern and demographic scenario attracts demographers to explore the reasons of low fertility in the midst of adverse conditions. With this general background, the specific objectives for the present study are: to study the fertility trends and proximate determinants of fertility in Orissa, to study the dynamics of family building process among poor and non-poor in Orissa by examining the trends in the timing of births, birth intervals and parity progression, to find out the factors influencing fertility and contraceptive use in Orissa, to understand the nature of family size preferences and decision making process in Orissa and finally to examine the value of children as perceived by poor and non-poor in Orissa.

To meet these objectives, data for the study have been taken from the Census, Sample Registration System (SRS), and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). For the investigation of value of children and fertility decisions, it was felt appropriate to carry out a field study in one area.

The analysis revealed that fertility in Orissa is low and the process of transition has gained momentum since the last two decades. Till the mid 1980s the pace of decline in fertility was slow in Orissa but the process of fertility transition was reasonably smooth and the rate of fertility started falling substantially after that. Analysis of the trends in PPPR assessed through the data on the fertility histories of women gives strong evidence of rapid transition towards predominantly two child families in Orissa. The Life Table analysis of spacing between births clearly suggests that the median birth intervals were shorter for the second birth than the subsequent births across different background characteristics of women. The results from proportional hazards model revealed that socio-economic differences do not show a large effect at lower order births.

In many cases, respondents stated that to have children is joint spousal decision. As expected, joint decision is more among respondents with higher levels of education and respondents belonging to non-poor households. Only one-sixth of respondents stated that their decision about family size would change in the hypothetical circumstances of the doubling of family income, government provision of free education and free ration to all children. This suggests that poor and non-poor are firm on their decision and there is little change in decision in relation to income and cost factors. Thus, the pure income effect appears to be minimal.

The gradual rise in the cost of bringing up children is the result of high aspirations for children’s education, whether son or daughter. Focus group discussions revealed that rich and poor parents desire higher quality children and would spend more money on each child’s education, food, clothes and medical care. The increased cost of raising each child has pushed downward the number of children they wished to have, the classical quantity-quality trade-off. As most of the families in Orissa did not have the necessary income to meet this increased cost, they realized that small family is the best solution.