Correlates of the desired family size among Indian communities

Joshi, N. V. ; Gadgil, M. ; Patil, S. (1996) Correlates of the desired family size among Indian communities Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 93 (13). pp. 6387-6392. ISSN 0027-8424

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The People of India database of the Anthropological Survey of India documents 631 cultural, ecological, and economic traits of the 4635 communities to which the entire Indian population is assigned. Focusing on 1342 communities of South India, we looked for correlates of low (1 or 2 children) and high (4 or more children) desired family size (DFS) reported as the norm for any given community by key informants. We found 10 cultural and 18 economic traits to be significantly correlated to high DFS and 21 cultural and 9 economic traits to low DFS. The economic traits so identified are compatible with high family size being desired by parents who have little capability of investing in quality of offspring, but whose children contribute economically from an early age. In contrast, communities desiring low family size are part of the modern intensive agriculture/organized industry/services sector and invest heavily in educating their children. A composite index based on 27 economic traits (CEI) has a high predictive value with respect to the DFS for the entire set of 4635 Indian communities. The 31 cultural traits highly correlated to high or low DFS constitute 5 clusters that can be identified as characterizing scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, rural and landless lower castes, urban upper castes, and Moslems. Whereas economic traits have similar influence on DFS within each of these ethnic categories, Moslems demonstrate a significantly higher DFS for lower values of CEI.

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