Political boundary versus social context: Dynamics of socioeconomic differentials in fertility in Indian states

Dharma Arunachalam, Kannan Navaneetham, Walter Forrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Using data from India’s first (1992–93) and third (2005–06) National
Family Health Surveys (NFHS-I and NFHS-III) this study examined the
fertility differentials between major social groups and the extent to which these
varied between states and over time. The analysis was based on a sample of
54,030 and 55,369 currently married women aged 15–34 in the NFHS-I and
NFHS-III respectively. Reported parity and desired family size were used to
assess variations in fertility behaviour. The results show that interstate variation
in childbearing patterns within social groups was at least as high as, if not
higher than, variation between states (net of other influences) in both periods,
1992–93 and 2005–06. The variations among Hindus, the poor and Muslims
were more noticeable than for other groups. These variations did not decline
between 1992–93 and 2005–06 and may have even increased slightly for some
groups. Further, there was no consistent north–south divide in either fertility
behaviour or desired family size. Together, these results may point to the gradual
disappearance of the influences that were once unique to southern or northern
India, and the simultaneous emergence of social, political, economic and
cultural forces that are pan-Indian in their reach.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Pages (from-to)156–171
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Biosocial Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

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