chapter  4
56 Pages


One major barrier to the acceptance of family limitation in peasant agri­ culture1 is purported to be the positive economic value of children. At least, the idea that raising children has some net economic benefit to parents (aside from their value as consumer goods) seems to be widely held among the peasants themselves. Many apparently view children as making a contribution to production while they grow up and, probably more important, as a source of support later in life. The thesis that a large family is an asset to peasants has recently been advanced rather forcefully by Mahmoud Mamdani (1972) and was advanced earlier by Colin Clark (1967) and Ester Boserup (1965). Mamdani’s evidence is largely anecdotal and hence bears little weight. Clark and Boserup pro­ vide some a priori justification and some historical examples. Yet their work is far from a systematic examination of the data and assumptions which have a bearing on the value of children in peasant agriculture.