The Bangladesh Fertility Decline: An Interpretation

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Abstract

The claim has been made, notably in a 1994 World Bank report, that the Bangladesh fertility decline shows that efficient national family planning programs can achieve major fertility declines even in countries that are very poor, and even if females have a low status and significant socioeconomic change has not occurred. This article challenges this claim on the grounds that Bangladesh did experience major social and economic change, real and perceived, over the last two decades. This proposition is supported by official data and by findings of the authors' 1997 field study in rural southeast Bangladesh. That study demonstrates that most Bangladeshis believe that conditions are very different from the situation a generation ago and that on balance there has been improvement. Most also believe that more decisions must now be made by individuals, and these include decisions to have fewer children. In helping to achieve these new fertility aims, however, the services provided by the family planning program constituted an important input.

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