The CPC Seminar Series takes place between October and June, all seminars are free to attend and no registration is required. If you would like to present please contact

The Value of Children and Theories of Fertility Transition

19th May 2011 3pm, University of Southampton 58 / 1023

Melanie Frost, University of Oxford

Debate over why people have children has caused a great deal of controversy over the years. The validity of competing theories of fertility transition turn largely on this question. Demographers generally favour either cultural or economic explanations for fertility transition, but rarely ask individuals why they have children, when these competing theories actually depend on average motivations for childbearing. Using Young Lives data from four developing world countries (Ethiopia, Vietnam, Peru and India) this paper looks at the value parents place on their children and how these relate to the number of children they have and the sex composition of those children. These childbearing motivations range from social and psychological to practical and economic. Latent class analysis is used to construct indices of the strength of parents? different motivations (economic, kinship, comfort and esteem) and then the effect of these indices on childbearing is studied. The results from the four countries indicate that the most important reason for childbearing in a general sense is old-age security. It is found that poorer families tend to give more practical and economic reasons for their childbearing decisions, while richer families and more urban families tend to give reasons of comfort and esteem. Overall the results indicate a value shift as childbearing decreases; this paper will explore what these results might mean for theories of fertility transition.