Rural Agricultural Change and Fertility Transition in Nepal


  • This research was supported by a number of grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (Grant # R01-HD032912, Grant # R01-HD033551, and Grant # R01 HD033551-13) and an NICHD center grant to the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan (R24 HD041028). We thank William G. Axinn (principal investigator) for providing access to the data and feedback on the earlier version of the article. We also would like to thank the staff of the Institute for Social and Environmental Research-Nepal for their contributions to the research reported here and Cathy Sun for assisting with data management. Last but not least, we owe a special debt of gratitude to our respondents who continuously welcome us to their homes and share their invaluable experiences, opinions, and thoughts and have devoted countless hours responding to our survey questionnaires. All errors and omissions remain our responsibility.

Address correspondence to Prem Bhandari, Population Studies Center, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI, 48106. E-mail:


Using longitudinal panel data from the Western Chitwan Valley of Nepal, this study examines the impact of the use of modern farm technologies on fertility transition—specifically, the number of births in a farm household. Previous explanations for the slow pace of fertility transition in rural agricultural settings often argued that the demand for farm labor is the primary driver of high fertility. If this argument holds true, the use of modern farm technologies that are designed to carry out labor-intensive farm activities ought to substitute for farm labor and discourage births in farm families. However, little empirical evidence is available on the potential influence of the use of modern farm technologies on the fertility transition. To fill this gap, the panel data examined in this study provide an unusual opportunity to test this long-standing, but unexplored, argument. The results demonstrate that the use of modern farm technologies, particularly the use of a tractor and other modern farm implements, reduce subsequent births in farm households. This offers important insight for understanding the fertility transition in Nepal, a setting that is experiencing high population growth and rapidly changing farming practices.