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Proximate Determinants of Fertility

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  • 0:00 Proximate Determinants…
  • 0:43 Marriage & Contraception
  • 1:33 Fecundability &…
  • 2:40 Sterility, Abortion &…
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson focuses on fertility rates and the proximate determinants of them. In doing this, it highlights seven of the factors set forth by the work of Bongaarts & Potter.

Proximate Determinants of Fertility

When it comes to understanding why populations sometimes shrink and sometimes swell, sociologists like to study the proximate determinants of fertility. Sounding like something you hear in a doctor's office, proximate determinants of fertility can be simply described as factors that affect fertility levels within a population.

When discussing these factors, most conversations turn to the works of Bongaarts & Potter, population experts who delineated factors affecting fertility levels within a population. Speaking academically, they reported the most important proximate determinants of fertility. In our lesson today, we'll discuss seven of these factors.

Marriage & Contraception

Our first proximate determinant of fertility is the percentage of married women in a population. Although the United Nations' summary of the proximate determinate actually uses the term 'married women,' some other sources widen the parameters to proportion of women involved in a sexual union. Since these women have historically had the highest rates of pregnancy, the percentage of the population they make up will be positively correlated to population fertility rates.

Our next factor is that of contraceptive use and efficiency. Keeping things really simple, the more people use contraception and use it correctly, the lower fertility rates will be. The less people use contraception and the less people use it correctly, the more hospitals will be busting at the seams with babies.

Fecundability & Infecundability

Our third proximate determinant of fertility is that of fecundability. Again keeping things rather academic, this is the probability of becoming pregnant in a single menstrual cycle. In other words, how likely is the woman to become pregnant from the time one period stops to the time her next one starts. If she has sex often, the chances are way better than if she does not.

This leads us to our next proximate determinant, length of postpartum infecundability. Sounding a bit scary, this just means how long a woman is infertile after giving birth. Stated colloquially, how long does it take a woman to get her period after giving birth? Although the duration of postpartum infecundability varies, studies show that breastfeeding usually lengthens it. For this reason, populations in which a majority of women breastfeed often have lower fertility rates than populations where more women do not. Adding to this, many women abstain from sexual intercourse after birth. This is also considered when discussing infecundability.

Sterility, Abortion, & Miscarriage

Speaking of menstrual cycles and births, another important factor in fertility is that of sterility within a population. This one often refers to women who are biologically unable to bear children. Obviously, if sterility levels are high, fertility rates will be low.

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