Population and Environment

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 407–423 | Cite as

Exploring the influence of precipitation on fertility timing in rural Mexico

  • Daniel H. SimonEmail author
Original Paper


The influence of environmental conditions on fertility decision-making is becoming increasingly important in the context of contemporary climate change. Deforestation, land availability, and environmental quality may shape decisions regarding family size, particularly in regions with high levels of natural resource dependence. This research examines the relationship between fertility timing and precipitation in rural Mexico by linking household event-history data to municipal-level precipitation measures. Even after controlling for other factors that impact fertility, in historically dry areas, households are more likely to have a child following above average precipitation, using both 1-year and 2-year prior precipitation measures. Conversely, the relationship between precipitation and fertility timing in humid areas of rural Mexico is not statistically significant. Overall, the findings reveal that the fertility-environment connection is highly context-specific and differs across climate zones in Mexico, but that fertility timing is associated with recent rainfall patterns for households in dry areas of rural Mexico.


Fertility Environment Mexico Livelihoods Precipitation MMP 



This ongoing research has benefited from the NICHD-funded University of Colorado Population Center (grant R21 HD51146) for research, administrative, and computing support. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the CUPC, NIH, or NICHD. The author would like to thank Fernando Riosmena, Lori Hunter, Ryan Masters, Catherine Talbot, Jason Boardman, David Pyrooz, Phil Pendergast, and the anonymous reviewers for their help and thoughtful comments in preparing this manuscript.


  1. Axinn, W. G., & Barber, J. S. (2001). Mass education and fertility transition. Am Sociol Rev, 66(4), 481–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Biddlecom, A. E., Axinn, W. G., & Barber, J. S. (2005). Environmental effects on family size preferences and subsequent reproductive behavior in Nepal. Popul Environ, 26(3), 583–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brauner-Otto, S. R. (2014). Environmental quality and fertility: the effects of plant density, species richness, and plant diversity on fertility limitation. Popul Environ, 36(1), 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cain, M. (1983). Fertility as an adjustment to risk. Popul Dev Rev, 9, 688–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caldwell, J. C., & Caldwell, P. (1987). The cultural context of high fertility in sub-Saharan Africa. Popul Dev Rev, 13, 409–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carr, D. L. (2005). Population, land use, and deforestation in the Sierra de Lacandón National Park, Petén, Guatemala. Prof Geogr, 57(2), 157–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carr, D. L., Pan, W. K., & Bilsborrow, R. E. (2006). Declining fertility on the frontier: the Ecuadorian Amazon. Popul Environ, 28(1), 17–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Center for International Earth Science Information Network, CIESIN, Columbia University. (1999). Georeferenced Population Datasets of Mexico (GEO-MEX): GIS of Mexican states, municipalities and islands. Palisades: NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC). doi: 10.7927/H4959FH0.Google Scholar
  9. Clay, D. C., & Johnson, N. E. (1992). Size of farm or size of family: which comes first? Popul Stud, 46(3), 491–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coomes, O.T., Barham, B.L., & Takasaki, Y. (2004). Targeting conservation- development initiatives in tropical forests: insights from analyses of rain forest use and economic reliance among Amazonian peasants. Ecological Economics 51(1&2), 47–64.Google Scholar
  11. Dasgupta, P. S. (1995). Population poverty and the local environment. Scientific American, 40–5.Google Scholar
  12. de Janvry, A., & Sadoulet, E. (2001). Income strategies among rural households in Mexico: the role of off-farm activities. World Dev, 29(3), 467–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Sherbinin, A., Carr, D., Cassels, S., & Jiang, L. (2007). Population and environment. Annu Rev Environ Resour, 32, 345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. de Sherbinin, A., VanWey, L. K., McSweeney, K., Aggarwal, R., Barbieri, A., Henry, S., Hunter, L., Twine, W., & Walker, R. (2008). Rural household demographics, livelihoods and the environment. Glob Environ Chang, 18(1), 38–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dunlap, R. E. (2010). Climate change and rural sociology: broadening the research agenda. Rural Sociol, 75(1), 17–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Easterlin, R. A. (1976). Factors in the decline of farm family fertility in the United States: some preliminary research results. J Am Hist, 63(3), 600–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Easterlin, R. A., & Crimmins, E. M. (1985). The fertility revolution: a supply-demand analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  18. Endfield, G. H. (2007). Archival explorations of climate variability and social vulnerability in colonial Mexico. Clim Chang, 83(1–2), 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Filmer, D., & Pritchett, L. (2002). Environmental degradation and the demand for children: searching for the vicious circle. Environ Dev Econ, 7, 123–146.Google Scholar
  20. Ghimire, D. J., & Mohai, P. (2005). Environmentalism and contraceptive use: how people in less developed settings approach environmental issues. Popul Environ, 27(1), 29–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Good, M. J. D., Farr, G. M., & Good, B. J. (1980). Social status and fertility: a study of a town and three villages in Northwestern Iran. Popul Stud, 34(2), 311–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harris, I. P. D. J., Jones, P. D., Osborn, T. J., & Lister, D. H. (2014). Updated high-resolution grids of monthly climatic observations—the CRU TS3. 10 dataset. Int J Climatol, 34(3), 623–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hiday, V. A. (1978). Agricultural organization and fertility: a comparison of two Philippine frontier communities. Soc Biol, 25(1), 69–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jolly, M. C. L. (1994). Four theories of population change and the environment. Popul Environ, 16(1), 61–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Köppen, W. P., & Geiger, R. (1923). Klimakarte der erde. Gotha: Justus Perthes.Google Scholar
  26. Kugler, T. A., Van Riper, D. C., Manson, S. M., Haynes II, D. A., Donato, J., & Stinebaugh, K. (2015). Terra Populus: workflows for integrating and harmonizing geospatial population and environmental data. Journal of Map & Geography Libraries, 11(2), 180–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marcoux, A. (1999). Population and environmental change: from linkages to policy issues.Google Scholar
  28. Massey, D. S., Alarcón, R., Durand, J., & González, H. (1987). Return to Aztlan: the social process of international migration from Western Mexico (Vol. Vol. 1). Berkeley: Univ of California Press.Google Scholar
  29. Mexican Migration Project (MMP) (2010). Available at:
  30. Mexico, D. T. I. (2009). Fertility in Mexico: trends and forecast. Completing the fertility transition, 48, 443.Google Scholar
  31. Molnar, J. J. (2010). Climate change and societal response: livelihoods, communities, and the environment. Rural Sociol, 75(1), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. MPC. (2013). Terra Populus: beta version. Minnesota: Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  33. Nawrotzki, R.J., Riosmena, F. & Hunter, L.M., (2013). Do rainfall deficits predict US-bound migration from rural Mexico? Evidence from the Mexican census. Population Research and Policy Review, 32(1), 129–158.Google Scholar
  34. O’Neill, B. C., MacKellar, F. L., & Lutz, W. (2001). Population and climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Pichón, F. J. (1997). Colonist land-allocation decisions, land use, and deforestation in the Ecuadorian Amazon frontier. Econ Dev Cult Chang, 45(4), 707–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rosero-Bixby, L., & Palloni, A. (1998). Population and deforestation in Costa Rica. Popul Environ, 20(2), 149–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rudel, T. A., & Horowitz, B. (2013). Tropical deforestation: small farmers and land clearing in Ecuadorian Amazon. New York City: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Schroth, G., Laderach, P., Dempewolf, J., Philpott, S., Haggar, J., Eakin, H., & Ramirez-Villegas, J. (2009). Towards a climate change adaptation strategy for coffee communities and ecosystems in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Mexico. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang, 14(7), 605–625.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schutjer, W. A., Stokes, C. S., & Poindexter, J. R. (1983). Farm size, land ownership, and fertility in rural Egypt. Land Econ, 59(4), 393–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shreffler, K. M., & Dodoo, F. N. A. (2009). The role of intergenerational transfers, land, and education in fertility transition in rural Kenya: the case of Nyeri district. Popul Environ, 30(3), 75–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Singh, S., Casterline, J. B., & Cleland, J. G. (1985). The proximate determinants of fertility: sub-national variations. Popul Stud, 39(1), 113–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stokes, C. S., & Schutjer, W. A. (1984). Access to land and fertility in developing countries. In W. A. Schutjer & C. S. Stokes (Eds.), Rural development and human fertility. New York: McMillan.Google Scholar
  43. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015). World population prospects: the 2015 revision.Google Scholar
  44. Vlassoff, M., & Vlassoff, C. (1980). Old age security and the utility of children in rural India. Popul Stud, 34(3), 487–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wiggins, S., Keilbach, N., Preibisch, K., Proctor, S., Herrejón, G. R., & Muñoz, G. R. (2002). Discussion—agricultural policy reform and rural livelihoods in central Mexico. J Dev Stud, 38(4), 179–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Institute of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations