, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 677–698

International Fertility Change: New Data and Insights From the Developmental Idealism Framework

  • Arland Thornton
  • Georgina Binstock
  • Kathryn M. Yount
  • Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi
  • Dirgha Ghimire
  • Yu Xie

DOI: 10.1007/s13524-012-0097-9

Cite this article as:
Thornton, A., Binstock, G., Yount, K.M. et al. Demography (2012) 49: 677. doi:10.1007/s13524-012-0097-9


Many scholars have offered structural and ideational explanations for the fertility changes occurring around the world. This paper focuses on the influence of developmental idealism—a schema or set of beliefs endorsing development, fertility change, and causal connections between development and fertility. Developmental idealism is argued to be an important force affecting both population policy and the fertility behavior of ordinary people. We present new survey data from ordinary people in six countries—Argentina, China, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, and the United States—about the extent to which developmental idealism is known and believed. We ask individuals if they believe that fertility and development are correlated, that development is a causal force in changing fertility levels, and that fertility declines enhance the standard of living and intergenerational relations. We also ask people about their expectations concerning future trends in fertility in their countries and whether they approve or disapprove of the trends they expect. The data show widespread linkage in the minds of ordinary people between fertility and development. Large fractions of people in these six settings believe that fertility and development are correlated, that development reduces fertility, and that declines in fertility foster development. Many also expect and endorse future declines in fertility.


Fertility Development Developmental idealism Globalization Social change 

Supplementary material

13524_2012_97_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (732 kb)
ESM 1(PDF 731 kb)

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arland Thornton
    • 1
  • Georgina Binstock
    • 2
  • Kathryn M. Yount
    • 3
  • Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi
    • 4
  • Dirgha Ghimire
    • 5
  • Yu Xie
    • 6
  1. 1.Population Studies Center, Survey Research Center, and Department of SociologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Centro de Estudios de Población, CENEP and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, CONICETBuenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Hubert Department of Global Health and Department of SociologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, Australian National University, & Department of Demography, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of TehranTehranIran
  5. 5.Population Studies CenterUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  6. 6.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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