Entering Reproductive Life in India: Analysis of the Occurrence and Timing of the First Child's Arrival in Relation to Socio-Economic Factors

Rojin Sadeghi , University of Geneva

Indian total fertility rate has decreased from 5.91 to 2.33 between 1960 and 2016, approaching the replacement fertility (World Bank, 2018). The first major studies explaining this phenomenon focused on the wealthiest segments of the population who postponed the age at first marriage and the arrival of the first child, particularly through longer studies. In the 2000s, Cosio-Zavala developed the theory of Malthusianism of poverty, according to which deprivation could also be a cause of fertility decline. Within those contrasted dynamics, a neglected component is childlessness. As with fertility decline, the absence of children is beginning to be ambiguously linked to socio-economic status. In our research, we are interested in the entry into reproductive life, which also includes people who do not have access to it. We seek to understand how the changes and continuities that took place in a complex society like India's affected changes in the timing of entry into fertile life. Our hypothesis is that as Indian fertility declines, the wealthiest segments of the population increasingly allow themselves to choose not to have children or more easily accept the fact that they cannot give birth due to life's constraints. Inversely, the less well-off segments of the population are still under pressure from higher reproductive norms and for them, childlessness is still largely due to a biological impossibility to procreate. To test our hypotheses, we use the Indian Demographic and Health Survey (2015-16) and different methods such as survival trees, Kaplan-Meier curves and Cox models.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course