New official data from 2017 on the total fertility rate (TFR) challenges conventionally held notions that women with higher education have a lower number of children. The new data states that TFR is much more complex. The data found that across the states, illiterate women and those with no formal education have lower fertility rates than those with below primary level education. Nonetheless, experts say this data is just from one or two years and cannot be considered as a significant trend unless observed and collated over at least four to five years.

Key Takeaways:

  • Across the states, illiterate women and those with no formal education have lower fertility rates than those with below primary level education.
  • All India data showed the TFR for those with below primary education at 3.1 against 2.9 for illiterate women. The TFR stood at 2.4 for women with no formal education.
  • Fertility could go up with a slight increase in education or income level. Eventually, fertility declines with higher levels of education.
  • Urban literates of U.P and Bihar have a higher fertility rate of two and 2.2 as compared with illiterate rural women of Maharashtra and West Bengal with 1.3 and 1.4 respectively.

Education and cultural influence on fertility

The culture of the state also plays a predominant role in determining TFR. Illiterate women from Tamil Nadu have a lower fertility rate when compared with urban graduate women from Uttar Pradesh. This is termed as the “Inverted-J” and can be seen in many countries across the world.

Bihar, which is a high fertility state, has a TFR of 4.4 for women who have not completed primary schooling as compared to 3.7 for illiterate women. Odisha, on the other hand, has an overall low fertility rate of 1.9. The TFR for  illiterate women was two against 3.6-3.5 for those with some primary schooling.

All India data showed the TFR for those with below primary education at 3.1 against 2.9 for illiterate women. The TFR stood at 2.4 for women with no formal education.

Read Also: Sex Ratio Goes Down, So Do The Fertility Rates In India

What the experts say

According to Dr K S James, director of the International Institute for population studies of Mumbai, income level also plays a key role in determining the fertility rate. “Usually there is an inverse relationship between education or income and fertility. But it has been observed that fertility could go up with a slight increase in education or income level. Eventually, fertility declines with higher levels of education,” to quote him from the Times of India.

He also points out that the cultural or geographic impact on fertility is sometimes greater than education or socio-economic characteristics. For instance, urban literates of U.P and Bihar have a higher fertility rate of two and 2.2 as compared with illiterate rural women of Maharashtra and West Bengal with 1.3 and 1.4 respectively.

Renowned demographer and population expert, Prof P M Kulkarni points out that the study is based on data from a single year, 2017. “It could be because of the number of illiterates in all states has been falling and so the sample size for illiterates might be small leading to errors. At this stage, I wouldn’t call it a trend. We need to see it for three or four years.”

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What experts say

Dr KS James, director of the International Institute for population studies of Mumbai, explained the Inverted- J pattern. According to him income level also plays a key role in determining the fertility rate. He said, “Usually there is an inverse relationship between education or income and fertility. But it has been observed that fertility could go up with a slight increase in education or income level. Eventually, fertility declines with higher levels of education” reported Times of India. He also points out that cultural or geographic impact is sometimes greater than education or socio-economic characteristics. Like urban literates of U.P and Bihar have a higher fertility rate of two and 2.2 as compare to illiterate rural women of Maharashtra and West Bengal with 1.3 and 1.4 respectively.

However a renowned demographer and population expert, Prof PM Kulkarni points out that the study is based on only 2017’s data. “It could be because of the number of illiterates in all states has been falling and so the sample size for illiterates might be small leading to errors. At this stage, I wouldn’t call it a trend. We need to see it for three or four years.”

Read Also: Newborn Mortality: India 12th Worst Among Low-Income Nations

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Divya Tripathi is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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