The Transition to Low Fertility in Brazil Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Coutinho, Raquel
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • In Brazil, the Total Fertility Rate went down from 4.26 children per women in 1980 to 1.91 in 2010. Internal disparities exist, however, regardless of the low value results at the macro level. For most socio-demographic groups, fertility rates are now lower than the desired family size, suggesting that women are, on average, having fewer children than they wish. In this dissertation, I use data from the Brazilian Demographic and Health Survey from 1986 and 1996, and from the Pesquisa Nacional de Demografia e Saude of 2006. I analyze these sources to decompose and analyze fertility rates using a framework that explains fertility rates at the aggregate level, based on a measurement of the Desired Family Size based on six parameters: unwanted fertility, replacements for child mortality, sex preferences, tempo effect, involuntary infertility, and competing preferences. By outlining and operationalizing these components across time, the first chapter illuminates the factors that contribute to low fertility in Brazil, and describes how they vary by socio-demographic characteristics (race, religion, education, wealth, geographic macro-region, and place of residence). For example, I find that unwanted pregnancies disproportionately affect the fertility rates for women of low education and low income. I also see that overtime, competing preferences are making women having fewer children than desired. The second chapter explores variations in gender preference for different socio-demographic groups using responses to questions about the ideal number of children and their composition available at the same databases. I present evidence of a preference for balance, although indifference regarding the composition has also been gaining momentum. I also find evidence of a secondary daughter preference that is small, but pervasive. The third chapter investigates factors that compete with childbearing. In brief, I find that women who work, have a college degree and take longer to marry are facing more challenges when it comes to having the number of children they desire. I also find that although women are postponing their fertility, they still hope to achieve it. In sum, findings from this dissertation elucidate macro-level, structural elements that explain variability in fertility outcomes, and considers the conjunctures that lead a women to either have more or fewer children than her desired target.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Zimmer, Catherine
  • Cai, Yong
  • Morgan, S. Philip
  • Potter, Joseph
  • Pearce, Lisa D.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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