All about fertility and its social impact

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

FERTILITY, according to 'The Demography of Health and Healthcare' refers to the reproductive experience of a population that involves all factors related to sexual behavior, pregnancy and birth outcome.

As John Macionis puts it in his 'Sociology', fertility is the incidence of childbearing in a country's population.

In layman's term, fertility is about measuring the number of children a couple, family or household has.


For demographers (professionals who study population) to study fertility, they use tools that measure or describe the rate or trend of fertility.

You may actually read or hear from news demographers stating that the crude birth rate or total fertility rate of a particular geographic area or country is such and such. Needless to say, the data inferred are dependent on the sexual behaviors between a man and woman to conceive life.

But beyond the physiologic and reproductive implications of fertility lies the fact that it is also an important economic indicator.
Meaning to say, fertility rates can also give us insights to the different parameters concerning social life including economics, education and health.

Let me start off with what high fertility rate means.

Based on a good number of demographic literatures, an association between high fertility rate and low educational attainment among women have been found. This implies that women who have more number of children have lower educational attainment.

This claim is best supported by the 2009 National Demograhic and Health Survey (NDHS) that explains that Filipino women who have the highest fertility rates are those women who have reached only the
elementary level of education.

Also, an association is established between high fertility rate and urbanization. Generally, as the figures from 2009 NDHS speak, the fertility rates from provincial regions are greater than the fertility
rates of Metro Manila.

For instance, the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), according to surveys has 5.2 children-ever-born, a measure used for fertility. Meaning to say, for every woman in ARMM, the average number of children is five.

Lastly, it can be inferred that the higher the fertility rate, the narrower the birth spacing.

In the Philippines, the NDHS states that the average months of interval for a woman to conceive another baby is 33 months.

Inversely speaking, the following holds true of women with lower fertility rates:

(1) Higher educational attainment. Women who have attained high education, degrees or professions have lesser children. A doctor for example has lesser children compared to 'sari-sari' store vendor. This may be justified by the fact that women who proceed to graduate or postgraduate education and career-driven may opt to delay pregnancy prioritizing careers or education.

(2) Women who live in the cities have lower fertility rates compared to rural women. A woman residing in bustling Metro Manila has lesser children compared to a woman in a remote province. This may be explained by the premise that children are liabilities in the cities than they are in the rural areas. In the countryside or shoreline, having more children are an asset considering the belief that once they turn adults, they would look back to their families or origin to get back and share their blessings.

(3) A low fertility rate means birth spacing is adequately practiced. As long as 45 months is the interval or waiting period for another pregnancy is practiced among women with low fertility rate.

The Department of Health recommends at least two to three years waiting time before another pregnancy not only to help the mother fully recover from the physical stress but also to pamper the needs of the child economically and materially.

Sociologically, a country with high fertility rate denotes poverty and high unmet needs not only of the mother but also of the children.
A developing country such as the Philippines has a 'slowing down' of fertility and population growth.

On the other hand, first-world continents like Europe that has a negative fertility rate and indicative of their current economic status that is prosperous and advancing medical technologies.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 15, 2014.


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