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The impact of freedom on fertility transition: revisiting the theoretical framework

Martha M Campbell, University of California, Berkeley
Ndola Prata, University of California, Berkeley
Malcolm Potts, University of California, Berkeley

In every place where fertility is stalled or persistently high, identifiable barriers continue to stand between women and the technologies and correct information they need for having control over whether to have a child. This paper questions theoretical explanations for fertility decline centered on couples’ rational decision making about family size based on exogenous sources of inspiration. We have assembled evidence for a freedom model recognizing that women everywhere have a natural comfort with the idea of bearing fewer than the maximum possible number of children, and that they are likely to act upon this latent desire only if they perceive the benefits of seeking or using family planning are higher than the costs. Costs, defined broadly, represent many barriers to fertility regulation, including medical rules and misinformation about contraception. Many examples are given. The freedom model implies that birth rates are open to change within a human rights framework.

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Presented in Session 83: Stalling fertility – a trans-national perspective