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Education and population: spurious relationship

On Sun, 4 Oct 1998, Usha Sriram wrote:
> I must mention the obvious. There is a strong correlation between small 
> families and the education status of girls.

What you are saying is that the education of women leads to the cutting
down of their children.

Seems obvious? Well. Data on this is very difficult to judge. A time
series analysis that I had carried out on TN and AP based on very
aggregate data seemed to show this relationship. See my paper at


But a vast cross-sectional study carried out by Retherford, Robert D., and
B.M. Ramesh (1996). "Fertility and Contraceptive use in Tamil Nadu, Andhra
Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh," a National Family Health Survey Bulletin. No.
3, April, 1996. International Institute for Population Sciences, Bombay.

showed that this is not true. In fact, it found ante-natal care to be the
key variable. 

Further, my study on Thailand, which is almost complete now, shows that
economic expectations determine the decision of parents to have lesser
children and educate them well, or to have more children and educate them
less. Even the role of family planning facilities pales dramatically in
comparison to economic expectaions for their children.

In particular, providing a woman with 3-4 years of education does not do a
magical trick by affecting her desired fertility. Most women in India are
not even literate upto that level. There is no basis therefore to
attribute such a major role for female education on population.

Sure: education is good, but let the parents decide whether they want to
educate their children. 

As citizens of India we should provide for policies which foster choice
and freedom. We have already discussed education and we need not open that
topic again. But on population, Barun has - as usual - taken the words out
of my mouth: let us NOT have a population policy because you and I are
NOBODY to determine the right of other citizens to reproduce. 

The BIMARU states are a problem NOT because their people are rabbits or
cockroaches. Their people are doing the best within their constraints. As
Philip Neher (Peasants, Procreation and Pensions, American Economic
Review, 1971), stated, "If parents believe they can make themselves better
off by having large families, they will do so."

Vlassoff and Vlassoff (1980, Population Studies) quote a farmer, Thaman
Singh, from Manapur, Panjab: "You were trying to convince me in 1960 that
I should not have any more sons. Now, you see, I have six sons and two
daughters and I sit at home in leisure. They are grown up and they bring
me money. One even works outside the village as a labourer. You told me I
was a poor man and could not support a large family. Now, you see, because
of my large family, I am a rich man."

Not denying the role of any good thing like female education, I strictly
oppose any intervention in trying to control the birth of some other human
being's child. Arrogance: thy name is population control/ containment.

Create economic opportunities and education will follow. Education will
lead to jobs/ work. That will lead to less time to manage babies, and
people will AUTOMATICALLY cut down children.

Start with economic policy. End with benefits all around. The most rapid
declines in pop. took place in SE Asia where economic policies came first.


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