Variation and Change in Fertility in West Central Nepal

  • Steven Folmar


As is evident from theory as well as many studies, population growth is a major issue facing many countries as they attempt to raise their living standards—or even maintain them—in the face of environmental problems. Most assumptions regarding population regulation rest on a fairly simple dichotomizing model: There are two fertility regimes, one “natural,” one “controlled.” In the natural regime, contraception is not consciously practiced and there is concomitantly a high number of births throughout the childbearing years, evident in the so-called “convex” fertility curve, in which age-specific fertility remains high through age 35. Controlled regimes are characterized by conscious choice to use birth control measures, and the consequent reduction in birth rates after age 20 results in a so-called “concave” fertility curve. Folmar demonstrates that in micropopulation studies this simple dichotomy breaks down; people do regulate their family sizes under preindustrial conditions. He shows how in Nepal, high-status, wealthy, high-caste families had high birth rates. They could afford to do so, and children confer social status. Poorer high-caste families have come to adopt fertility-limiting measures because, while children have value in terms of social status, their cost competes with the demands of high-caste life style. Soon low-caste families began to emulate their poor, but high-caste neighbors.


Fertility Decline Fertility Behavior Status Symbol Fertility Pattern West Central 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Folmar
    • 1
  1. 1.Section on Internal Medicine and Gerontology, Bowman Gray School of MedicineWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA

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