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Women's Autonomy and Fertility: A Comparison of Sociocultural Indicators

  • Author(s): Alvarez, Rebecca
  • Advisor(s): Chase-Dunn, Christopher
  • Kposowa, Augustine
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation utilizes a feminist theoretical model of women's autonomy to explain much of the variability in national fertility rates from 1990-2006. While many previous efforts have been made to determine what causes variation in fertility, this research utilizes panel analysis to examine some cultural variables that have been largely ignored in the field, specifically Islam and the practices of polygyny and female genital mutilation (FGM). These variables are hypothesized to affect fertility rates positively. This research also re-examines previously studied economic, political, and educational indicators of female autonomy, in addition to economic development as measured by GNI per capita, using multivariate regression analysis to determine the strength of the effects of the cultural indicators of female autonomy on fertility change vis-à-vis these other variables. Results from the analysis suggest that a significant negative relationship exists between FGM and fertility change, and that a significant positive relationship exists between Islam and fertility change, but that significant relationships do not exist for any of the other variables examined and fertility. The neoclassical economic model of fertility change is not substantiated and arguments about women's autonomy and fertility are somewhat supported. Implications for further research and public policy are discussed.

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