The social context of family size preferences and fertility behaviour in a south Indian village.

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This study analyzes quantitative and qualitative data collected in 1987 in the southern district of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu state, India. All married women in all but 10 of the 318 households participated in the survey. The study area included wet, fertile land suitable for paddy cultivation. Over 50% of total households did not have access to the land. Over the past 20 years, cultivator households have shifted to nonagricultural activities (40%). The village is now supported by a mixed economy. Women are engaged as beedi workers and have a guaranteed wage and secure employment. Males work in the brick industry. The reliance on income outside the family has resulted in greater independence from the family and greater freedom of movement for women. 30% of the 235 currently married women aged under 50 years were childless, and 8% had been married over 2 years. 11% of childless couples were in the wage labor class, 3% were in the agricultural class, and 7% were skilled self-employed and salaried workers. The mean number of children born to women born before 1950 was 6.5 to 7. Child loss was lower by one child for young women. There were smaller families among the landless, in part due to child loss. The proportion of couples who desire additional children decreased with age and parity. Women are considered irresponsible for getting pregnant when there are physically mature boys or girls in the household. A higher proportion of landless and small peasants desired more children. Degree of satisfaction with family size varied with achieved family size, age, and other demographic factors. Everyone wanted one son and one daughter. For landless and poor peasants, one son is a necessity. 50% considered 2 children ideal and 40% considered 3-4 children ideal. 75% preferred only one daughter. The economic advantage of children was more pronounced among landholders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-103
Number of pages21
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996

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