, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 443–454

Explaining fertility transitions

Presidential Address

DOI: 10.2307/3038299

Cite this article as:
Mason, K.O. Demography (1997) 34: 443. doi:10.2307/3038299


In this essay. I suggest that the crisis in our understanding of fertility transitions is more apparent than real. Although most existing theories of fertility transition have been partially or wholly discredited, this reflects a tendency to assume that all fertility transitions share one or two causes, to ignore mortality decline as a precondition for fertility decline, to assume that pretransitional fertility is wholly governed by social constraints rather than by individual decision-making. and to test ideas on a decadal time scale. I end the essay by suggesting a perceptual. interactive approach to explaining fertility transitions that is closely allied to existing theories but focuses on conditions that lead couples to switch from postnatal to prenatal controls on family size.

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program on PopulationHonoluluEast-West Center