Pak Sudarno's Big Family | Poor Economics
Chapter 5
Pak Sudarno's Big Family

Most policy makers consider population policy to be a central part of any development policy. And yet surprisingly, it seems that access to contraception may not be the determining factor in the poor’s fertility decisions.

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The governments of many developing countries believe that their population are too large and need to be controlled through family planning.
There is a fear that population growth may indeed contribute to climate change and water scarcity.
However, there is no proof that larger families are bad for children. As such, it is hard to justify top-down family planning as a means of protecting children from having to grow up in large families.
The poor seem to be able to control their fertility decisions quite well: the mere availability of contraceptives does not make a very large difference in the total number of children that a woman has over a life time.
However, women and men may have different views on ideal family side: When interviewed separately, men consistently report larger ideal family size and lower demand for contraception than their wives, so how much say a woman has within the household matters.
Reduction in fertility is therefore more likely to follow changes in social norms, or increases in the say that a woman has in household matters.
For many parents, children are their economic futures: an insurance policy, a savings product, and some lottery tickets, all rolled into a convenient pint-size package.
Effective social safety nets (such as health insurance or old age pensions) could lead to a substantial reduction in fertility, as people find it less necessary to have so many children (in particular, so many male children).

Population studies

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Pak Sudarno's Big Family

Most policy makers consider population policy to be a central part of any development policy. And yet surprisingly, it seems that access to contraception may not be the determining factor in the poor’s fertility decisions.

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Most policy makers consider population policy to be a central part of any development program. And yet, unexpectedly, it seems that access to contraception may not be the determining factor in the poor's fertility decisions. So how can policy makers influence population?

Instead of contraception, other aspects like social norms, family dynamics, and above all, economic considerations, seem to play a key role, not only in how many children people choose to have, but how they will treat them. Discrimination against women and girls remain a central fact of the life for many poor families.

Going inside the "black box" of familial decision-making - that is, understanding how and why decisions are made the way they are - is essential to predicting the real impact of any social policy aimed at influencing population.
 

Spotlight

Nancy Qian / China / 2009
Using a natural experiment (China's "1-son-2-child" policy; a relaxation of the One Child Policy), the author finds that "an additional child significantly increases school enrollment of first-born children."
 

Most policy makers consider population policy to be a central part of any development program. And yet, unexpectedly, it seems that access to contraception may not be the determining factor in the poor's fertility decisions. So how can policy makers influence population?

Instead of contraception, other aspects like social norms, family dynamics, and above all, economic considerations, seem to play a key role, not only in how many children people choose to have, but how they will treat them. Discrimination against women and girls remain a central fact of the life for many poor families.

Going inside the "black box" of familial decision-making - that is, understanding how and why decisions are made the way they are - is essential to predicting the real impact of any social policy aimed at influencing population.
 

Spotlight

Nancy Qian / China / 2009
Using a natural experiment (China's "1-son-2-child" policy; a relaxation of the One Child Policy), the author finds that "an additional child significantly increases school enrollment of first-born children."