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Fertility Decline in the West: Causes and Prospects

Charles F. Westoff
Population and Development Review
Vol. 9, No. 1 (Mar., 1983), pp. 99-104
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/1972897
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1972897
Page Count: 6
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Fertility Decline in the West: Causes and Prospects
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Abstract

There is a natural tendency to seek popular explanations for the causes of low fertility in the West. The recent fertility decline, however, is at least in part a continuation of a historical trend of two centuries' duration in France and the United States. In fact, a strong case may be made for the proposition that it is the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s that is the anomaly. The general economic argument--that during the nineteenth century children became increasingly expensive dependents--is still thought to capture the essence of what prompted the decline in the West. The important consideration for the prediction that fertility will remain low is that none of the recent social changes and advances in contraceptive technology seems likely to be reversed, while the growing independence of women has yet to run its full course.

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