Changing Household Composition, Labor Patterns, and Fertility in a Highland New Guinea Population

  • Patricia Lyons Johnson


Demography, the study of the characteristics of populations, is central to ecology. The size, distribution, and other characteristics of populations are assumed to reflect, respond to, and have an impact on other living things and the nonorganic factors that comprise the environment. However, when we study human populations, as Johnson demonstrates in this study of a Highland New Guinea community on which excellent demographic records have been kept over a period of time, we find that complex variables interact in complex ways to alter fertility. In this instance, Johnson tests a long-held belief that economic development results in a reduction in fertility. Presumably, this is a product of higher, more dependable family incomes, which depress the demand for labor and produce higher levels of health care, consequently lower infant and childhood mortality, as well as higher costs of investment in childrearing. In other words, since children are expected to survive, and to be expensive, families in the developed world plan to have fewer of them than families elsewhere, who anticipate high losses and need more children to work.


Total Fertility Rate Dependency Ratio Household Composition Male Household Head Interbirth Interval 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Lyons Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and Women’s Studies ProgramPennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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