chapter  5
28 Pages

EDUCATION AND HUMAN FERTILITY: SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

Few scholars would take issue with the position that rising levels of edu­ cation result in lower fertility rates. Belief in the universality and invari­ ant nature of this relationship has invested formal education with substantial promise as the major social institution amenable to policy manipulation that can help solve the problem of rapid population growth in less developed nations. Yet we find it difficult to write definitively on the effect of education on fertility. Despite an abundance of studies showing negative zero-order and partial correlations between education and fertility, the causal mechanisms that link the two have yet to be specified adequately and submitted to systematic empirical testing. Some have divided the task into two parts; the direct effects of education, broadly defined, on fertility with other causal influences eliminated, and those influences of education thought to operate indirectly on fertility through other variables. The category involving direct effects is suspect on the grounds of imperfect conceptualization. Some argue that there simply can be no direct effects of education or schooling on fertility and that even such highly focused pedagogical activities as sex and contra­ ceptive education must be regarded as indirect, owing to the complex and often tenuous link between the teaching act and the learning outcome and between these and behavior congruent with the original expectation, that is, low actual fertility. Since fertility is the condition of consummate interest, this line of reasoning holds that all influences of education bear at best indirectly. We reject this argument because we view fertility more broadly to include certain personal dispositions and preferences.