Fertility Declines in Developing Countries: Do They Empower Women?

Anju Malhotra, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
Nancy E. Riley, Bowdoin College

While gender and demographic literature has focused on fertility decline as a potential outcome of women’s empowerment and shifting gender relations, less attention has been paid to the reverse causation: the transformative potential of fertility declines on women’s lives and gender relations more broadly. We begin to address this research gap by exploring the question: Does reduced fertility create the conditions necessary to transform gender relations and under what circumstances? Our analysis draws on theoretical and empirical literature and a combination of quantitative trend data for 20 developing countries as well as qualitative excerpts from country case studies to assess how our theoretical formulations bear out against the specific countries’ recent historical experiences. We argue that population processes and gender issues are intimately connected and that declining fertility levels have the potential to set the stage for fundamental transformations in gender relations that then have implications for broader development processes.

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Presented in Session 104: Gender, Power and Reproductive Behavior