Kerala reaps low fertility dividends

Popline. May-Jun 1992;14:8.


PIP: Unlike much of India, the state of Kerala has promoted the development of human resources, resulting in lower fertility rates. If current UN projections are correct, India will overtake China as the most populous nation in the world by 2025. Within India, however, great differences exist in fertility rates, reflecting the level of commitment from state governments. In India, state governments control much of the policy and spending on health, education, etc. While the state of Kerala has been among the most committed to human resource development in the developing world, India's 5 northern states (Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Orissa) have been among the least committed. As a result, Kerala's fertility rate has fallen to 2.3 children/women--a rate lower than that of Thailand, China, the formers USSR, or Ireland. Kerala has a contraceptive prevalence rate 3 times the national average and the lowest infant mortality rate in all of India--only 26/1000 live births (infant mortality is 4-5 times higher in the 5 northern states). Only 27% of Kerala's population lives in poverty, compared to 34-49.5% in the northern states. Real incomes and industrialization have been growing faster in Kerala. And industrialization does not appear to have come at the expense of the environment. 2 factors are responsible for Kerala' accomplishments: 1) State government support of human development--the state has invested in health, education, and has conducted a land reform benefiting 3 million landless peasants. 2) The status of women--in Kerala, women are viewed as an asset, not a liability (as in the north). Kerala's female literacy is 66%, compared to 11-21% in the northern states. Kerala also enjoys the highest level of female labor force participation (35%) anywhere in India.

MeSH terms

  • Asia
  • Birth Rate*
  • Demography
  • Developing Countries
  • Economics
  • Education*
  • Fertility
  • Geography*
  • Health*
  • India
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Mortality
  • Population
  • Population Characteristics*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Public Policy*
  • Social Change*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Rights*