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					Mason, Karen Oppenheim. “Explaining Fertility Transitions”

Main idea: Mason gives an overview of theories of fertility transition. But then she asserts that
future theory must look at it as a result of a combination of interactive causes.

Key terms:
fertility transition: combinations of causes that provide impetus for the widespread adoption of
fertility limitation (446)
natural fertility: fertility that is socially controlled but not controlled by individuals on a parity-
specific basis (447)

       major theories of fertility decline
             - classic demographic transition theory (Lestheaghe)
                 modernization and individualization comes w/ industrialization and urbanization
                 mortality decreases, survival of children increases, and in turn fertility decreases
             - theory of wealth flows (Caldwell)
                 nucleation of family makes children the economic beneficiaries
             - neoclassical microeconomic theory
                 3 proximate determinants of fertility choices: relative costs of children, income,
                 preference for children vs. other consumption
             - ideational theory (Cleland)
                 diffusion of info and new norms about birth control
       critique: 4 errors in our thinking
             - assumption of a single cause, rather than a combinations of causes
                 existence of some important influences on fertility in only some times and places
                 diffusion of info can lower fertility before a country undergoes structural change
                 demographic and social variation across pre-transitional nations
             - recent theories ignore mortality decline as a precondition for fertility decline
             - assumption that fertility is different in pre- and post-transitional populations
                 misuse of the concept of natural fertility
                 social controls and individual rationality normally coexist
                 pretransitional countries also limit birth, thru with postnatal controls
             - focusing on a time decadal scale
                 loose temporal connections b/w structural and ideological changes and onset of
                 fertility transitions
       towards a better theory of fertility
             - interactive models
             - ideational models: changing perceptions drive fertility change
             - change depends on preexisting conditions in population and environment
       Mason’s theory
             - whether surviving children exceed, meet, or fall short of the # of children can
                 accommodate or find optimal, determines the types of offspring control, which in
                 turn determines fertility
             - nature of social systems influences the value of children
             - shift from post- to prenatal controls depends on their acceptability and on
                 available alternative controls

Big picture: Obviously, integrates Lesthaeghe, Cleland, and Caldwell, though refutes their
theories as sole explanations. Like them, integrates cultural and economic causes. Also
integrates birth control in fertility transition (Potts, Morgan).

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