Poverty, Risk Perception and Childbearing

Sajeda Amin, Population Council
John B. Casterline, Pennsylvania State University

This paper explores how perceptions of risk and vulnerability affect fertility, and in particular how they affect the propensity for fertility. The paper draws on two established strains in the existing literature that have not been effectively incorporated in research on poverty and population processes. The first is the theory of risk and fertility put forward by Mead Cain (1983). The paper expands the scope and applicability of Cain’s work by drawing on more recent theory about social influence and social interaction. In particular, we explore how social networks provide social resources to households that reduce risk and perceptions of vulnerability, and how social networks facilitate the adoption of innovative behaviors, in so doing conditioning the effects of poverty on decisions about childbearing. Although this paper examines fertility, the argument advanced applies to other demographic outcomes. The argument is illustrated with data from Bangladesh and Egypt.

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Presented in Session 100: Population and Poverty