Reasons behind the declining fertility rate of urban India

By Avishek Majumder & Priya Chetty on July 29, 2017

India constitutes about 17.1% of the total world population (Korotayev, Goldstone, & Zinkina, 2015). According to the 2011 census,  64.8% of the total population is settled in the rural regions of the country (Bongaarts & Sinding, 2011). However this distribution of the population is expected to change due to urbanization and decline in the mortality rate in the recent years. People are moving to urban areas for employment, education, and a better lifestyle. This might lead to a balance of population between the urban and rural areas. Fertility has also reduced in India, mostly in urban areas. This article focuses on the reasons for the declining fertility in urban India.

Dynamics of fertility in urban India

The urban India has a higher population growth rate than rural India. This is shown though the census done in 2001 and 2011, as shown in the table below:

Years 2001 2011 Increase/ decrease
India 102.9 121.0 18.1
Urban 74.3 83.3 9.0
Rural 28.6 37.7 9.1

Showing population in India. (Source: Bongaarts & Sinding, 2011)

The number of people in the urban areas seem to be increasing despite the decline in fertility rate. This increase in population is due to the migration of people to urban areas. Low fertility rate is clearly shown through reduced birth rate in India and mostly the urban areas as shown in the graph below (Jiang & Hardee, 2014);

Declining fertility rate slowing down birthrate. (Source: Jiang & Hardee, 2014)
Declining fertility rate slowing down birthrate. (Source: Jiang & Hardee, 2014)

The chart above shows how the birth rates have been decreasing in the recent years. In a research that was conducted by Jiang & Hardee, (2014) shows that 2014 had the lowest birth rates of 19.89 leading to the current fertility rate of 2.5.

India and the big states Total fertility rate Fertility in rural areas Fertility in urban areas
India 2.5 2.9 2.0
Andhra Pradesh 1.9 2.0 1.6
Assam 2.6 2.8 1.6
Bihar 3.9 4.0 2.8
Chhattisgarh 3.0 3.2 2.0
Delhi 1.9 2.0 1.9
Gujarat 2.5 2.8 2.1
Haryana 2.5 2.6 2.2
Himachal Pradesh 1.9 1.9 1.3
Jammu & Kashmir 2.2 2.4 1.4
Jharkhand 3.2 3.4 2.2
Karnataka 2.0 2.2 1.7
Kerala 1.7 1.7 1.8
Madhya Pradesh 3.3 3.6 2.3
Maharashtra 1.9 2.1 1.8
Orissa 2.4 2.5 1.6
Punjab 1.9 1.9 1.7
Rajasthan 3.3 3.6 2.5
Tamil Nadu 1.7 1.8 1.7
Uttar Pradesh 3.7 3.9 3.0
West Bengal 1.9 2.1 1.3

Showing the fertility rate of India and other major cities. (Source: Patel, 2014)

From the table above it is evident that the rural areas have a higher fertility rate than the urban areas. This demographic changes in the urban areas can clearly be described using the Demographic Transition Theory.

The Demographic Transition Theory (DTT) has been used to describe most of the population changes in various countries in the world. DTT clearly illustrates the gradual progressive movement from the high birth and death rates to the low birth and death rates. It divides this transition into four phases. The first phase is experienced by the pre-industrialized states where both the birth and the death rates are high. The second phase is where the death falls due to improved health facilities and lifestyle. Most of the developing states are in this stages. The third stage is when birth rates reduce and the fourth phase is when the birth and the death rates have reduced (Korotayev et al., 2015).

Reasons behind declining rate of fertility in India

Urban India is in the fourth stage. The birth and death rates have gradually reduced in the recent years. This reduction has been partly due to the embracement of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that were set in 2000. The MDG have led to improvement of health care facilities leading to low death rates. It has also campaigned for a reduction in absolute poverty among the urban people which has been through raising of a manageable family that has led to reduced fertility (Poverty, 2015).

Some other reasons for declining rate of fertility are:

  • increased focus on familiy planning,
  • increase in wages,
  • reduced subsistence agriculture and
  • increase in education level of the women.

Government and non-governmental organizations have been encouraging family planning methods that are cheap and manageable. More than 50% of people living in the urban areas have accepted the use of family planning methods leading to low birth rates (Ezeh, Bongaarts, & Mberu, 2012). Working people in urban areas want better pay, implying that they have to reduce the number of children so as to increase the time they spend at their workplace. The subsistence agriculture has been decreasing in the recent years. This has led to the rise in the cost of living therefore making it impossible to manage a big family. Women in the recent years are spending more time increasing in education for high paying jobs (Croix & Licandro, 2013).

It is evident that there is a significant gap between the urban and the rural population, which might soon change. The declining fertility in the urban areas could be a stumbling block to the growth of the urban population.