Social Scientist. v 9, no. 100 (Nov 1980) p. 22.


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JV KRISHNAJI

Poverty and Family Si^e

IT is generally believed that poor people have large families. Mortality rates among the poor can be expected to be high. Hence it is high fertility which is assumed to be responsible for large families among the poor.1

An association between high fertility and poverty appears at [first sight to have no "rational" basis since, other things remaining the same, the larger the family the lower will be its level of living. This is especially (rue when large families have a high proportion of child dependants resulting from high fertility. Many theories have been put forward to explain the apparently paradoxical behaviour of the poor and to uncover the rational basis for high fertility.

Infant mortality plays the central role in such theories. The rationality itself is sometimes assumed to be "unconscious/* presumably based on mortality experience of individual families:

the poor produce a large number of children to ensure, given the experience of frequent infant deaths, enough survivors and continuation of families. More often, these theories attribute conscious economic calculation to the poor. We may ignore the formal elegance of these theories and state the nature of the underlying economic calculations in fairly simple terms: surviving children



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