In this influential work, Richard A. Easterlin shows how the size of a generation—the number of persons born in a particular year—directly and indirectly affects the personal welfare of its members, the make-up and breakdown of the family, and the general well being of the economy.
"[Easterlin] has made clear, I think unambiguously, that the baby-boom generation is economically underprivileged merely because of its size. And in showing this, he demonstrates that population size can be as restrictive as a factor as sex, race, or class on equality of opportunity in the U.S."—Jeffrey Madrick, Business Week
Most women in the West use contraceptives in order to avoid having children. But in rural Gambia and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, many women use contraceptives for the opposite reason—to have as many children as possible.
Using ethnographic and demographic data from a three-year study in rural Gambia, Contingent Lives explains this seemingly counterintuitive fact by juxtaposing two very different understandings of the life course: one is a linear, Western model that equates aging and the ability to reproduce with the passage of time, the other a Gambian model that views aging as contingent on the cumulative physical, social, and spiritual hardships of personal history, especially obstetric trauma. Viewing each of these two models from the perspective of the other, Caroline Bledsoe produces fresh understandings of the classical anthropological subjects of reproduction, time, and aging as culturally shaped within women's conjugal lives. Her insights will be welcomed by scholars of anthropology and demography as well as by those working in public health, development studies, gerontology, and the history of medicine.
Demography and the Economy
Edited by John B. Shoven University of Chicago Press, 2010 Library of Congress HB849.41.D456 2011 | Dewey Decimal 330
Demographics is a vital field of study for understanding social and economic change and it has attracted attention in recent years as concerns have grown over the aging populations of developed nations. Demographic studies help make sense of key aspects of the economy, offering insight into trends in fertility, mortality, immigration, and labor force participation, as well as age, gender, and race specific trends in health and disability.
Demography and the Economy explores the connections between demography and economics, paying special attention to what demographic trends can reveal about the sustainability of traditional social security programs and the larger implications for economic growth. The volume brings together some of the leading scholars working at the border between the two disciplines, and it provides an eclectic overview of both fields. Contributors also offer deeper analysis of a variety of issues such as the impact of greater wealth on choices about marriage and childbearing and the effects of aging populations on housing prices, Social Security, and Medicare.
What is a life worth? In the wake of eugenics, new quantitative racist practices that valued life for the sake of economic futures flourished. In The Economization of Life, Michelle Murphy provocatively describes the twentieth-century rise of infrastructures of calculation and experiment aimed at governing population for the sake of national economy, pinpointing the spread of a potent biopolitical logic: some must not be born so that others might live more prosperously. Resituating the history of postcolonial neoliberal technique in expert circuits between the United States and Bangladesh, Murphy traces the methods and imaginaries through which family planning calculated lives not worth living, lives not worth saving, and lives not worth being born. The resulting archive of thick data transmuted into financialized “Invest in a Girl” campaigns that reframed survival as a question of human capital. The book challenges readers to reject the economy as our collective container and to refuse population as a term of reproductive justice.
In the Red Sea Hills of eastern Sudan, where poverty, famines, and conflict loom large, women struggle to gain the status of responsible motherhood through bearing and raising healthy children, especially sons. But biological fate can be capricious in impoverished settings. Amidst struggle for survival and expectations of heroic mothering, women face realities that challenge their ability to fulfill their prescribed roles. Even as the effects of modernity and development, global inequities, and exclusionary government policies challenge traditional ways of life in eastern Sudan and throughout many parts of Africa, reproductive traumas—infertility, miscarriage, children’s illnesses, and mortality—disrupt women’s reproductive health and impede their efforts to achieve the status that comes with fertility and motherhood.
In Embodying Honor Amal Hassan Fadlalla finds that the female body is the locus of anxieties about foreign dangers and diseases, threats perceived to be disruptive to morality, feminine identities, and social well-being. As a “northern Sudanese” viewed as an outsider in this region of her native country, Fadlalla presents an intimate portrait and thorough analysis that offers an intriguing commentary on the very notion of what constitutes the “foreign.” Fadlalla shows how Muslim Hadendowa women manage health and reproductive suffering in their quest to become “responsible” mothers and valued members of their communities. Her historically grounded ethnography delves into women’s reproductive histories, personal narratives, and ritual logics to reveal the ways in which women challenge cultural understandings of gender, honor, and reproduction.
During the 1990s, Greece had a very high rate of abortion at the same time that its low birth rate was considered a national crisis. The Empty Cradle of Democracy explores this paradox. Alexandra Halkias shows that despite Greek Orthodox beliefs that abortion is murder, many Greek women view it as “natural” and consider birth control methods invasive. The formal public-sphere view is that women destroy the body of the nation by aborting future citizens. Scrutiny of these conflicting cultural beliefs enables Halkias’s incisive critique of the cornerstones of modern liberal democracy, including the autonomous “individual” subject and a polity external to the private sphere. The Empty Cradle of Democracy examines the complex relationship between nationalism and gender and re-theorizes late modernity and violence by exploring Greek representations of human agency, the fetus, national identity, eroticism, and the divine.
Halkias’s analysis combines telling fragments of contemporary Athenian culture, Greek history, media coverage of abortion and the declining birth rate, and fieldwork in Athens at an obstetrics/gynecology clinic and a family-planning center. Halkias conducted in-depth interviews with one hundred and twenty women who had had two or more abortions and observed more than four hundred gynecological exams at a state family-planning center. She reveals how intimate decisions and the public preoccupation with the low birth rate connect to nationalist ideas of race, religion, freedom, resistance, and the fraught encounter between modernity and tradition. The Empty Cradle of Democracy is a startling examination of how assumptions underlying liberal democracy are betrayed while the nation permeates the body and understandings of gender and sexuality complicate the nation-building projects of late modernity.
Are girls entering puberty earlier than they used to? This question, which has been debated recently by doctors and scientists in the pages of Time magazine and the New York Times, proves that there is still a great deal to learn about women's reproductive health. Female Fertility and the Body-Fat Connection is the record of one scientist's groundbreaking and decades-long work on the connections among fertility, body fat, and reproductive health in women.
Rose E. Frisch explains here how, in women, a certain amount of body fat is crucial to the reproductive system and sexual maturation. Women who are too lean are infertile and cannot conceive children; young girls who are too thin have a delayed onset of their first period. Female Fertility and the Body-Fat Connection illuminates how and why a "critical fitness" level underlies a woman's reproductive health. In the process Frisch gives readers a comprehensive view of the research done to date on the relationship between body composition and fertility and also describes her own journey as a woman scientist working to advance her critical-fitness hypothesis both to the general public and the scientific community. Frisch answers the questions every woman has about the desirable weight for health and fertility and even includes tables to help women find their own best weight. She also demonstrates how important diet and exercise are for the long-term reproductive health of women, and shows what factors influence the onset of puberty in girls.
Each milestone of the reproductive life span is affected by food intake and energy output, the factors affecting the storage of fat. Female Fertility and the Body-Fat Connection is a cornerstone to understanding the health of girls and women.
For most of human history a "natural fertility" regime has prevailed throughout the world: there has been almost no conscious limitation of family size within marriage, and women have spent their reproductive lives tied to the "wheel of childbearing." Only recently in developed countries has fertility been brought under conscious control by individual couples and childbearing fallen to an average of two births per woman. The explanation of this "fertility revolution" is the main concern of this book.
Richard A. Easterlin and Eileen M. Crimmins present and test a fertility theory that has gained increasing attention over the last decade, a "supply-demand theory" that integrates economic and sociological approaches to fertility determination. The results of the tests, which draw on data from four developing countries—Colombia, India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan—are highly consistent, though a number of the conclusions are likely to arouse controversy. For example, couples' motivation for fertility control appears to be the prime mover in the fertility revolution, rather than access to family planning services or unfavorable attitudes toward such services.
The interdisciplinary approach and nontechnical exposition of this study will attract a wide readership among economists, sociologists, demographers, anthropologists, statisticians, biologists, and others.
The historical decline of fertility in Europe has occupied a central place in social history and demography over the past quarter-century. Most scholars credit Europeans with modulating sexual behavior, through either abstinence or the practice of coitus interruptus, as a rational choice made in the interest of personal economic comfort; yet peasant and working classes have typically lagged behind in birth control and have given rise to the adage that "sexual embrace is the festival of the poor." Scholarly analyses of "lag" often reinforce this stigmatizing view. Now this subject is given a fresh look through a case study in Sicily, one of the last outposts of Western Europe's demographic transition. By examining population changes in a single community between 1860 and 1980, the authors offer an extended review and critique of existing models of fertility decline in Europe, proposing a new interpretation that emphasizes historical context and class relations. They show how the spread of capitalism in Sicily induced an unprecedented rate of population growth, with boom-and-bust cycles creating the class experiences in which "reputational networks" came to redefine family life; how Sicilians began to control their fertility in response to class-mediated ideas about gender relations and respectable family size; and how the town's gentry, artisan, and peasant classes adopted family planning methods at different times in response to different pressures. Jane and Peter Schneider's anthropologically oriented political-economy perspective challenges the position of Western Europe as a model for fertility decline on which every other case should converge, looking instead at the diversity of cultural ideals and practices--such as those found in Sicily--that influence the spread and form of birth control. Combining anthropological, oral historical, and archival methods in new and insightful ways, the authors' synthesis of a particular case study with a broad historical and theoretical discussion will play a major role in the ongoing debates over the history of European fertility decline and point the way toward integrating the analysis of demographic upheaval with the study of class formation and ideology.
By the year 2030, the average life expectancy of women in industrialized countries could reach ninety—exceeding that of men by about ten years. At the present time, postmenopausal women represent more than fifteen percent of the world’s population and this figure is likely to grow.
From an evolutionary perspective, these demographic numbers pose some intriguing questions. Darwinian theory holds that a successful life is measured in terms of reproduction. How is it, then, that a woman’s lifespan can greatly exceed her childbearing and childrearing years? Is this phenomenon simply a byproduct of improved standards of living, or do older women—grandmothers in particular—play a measurable role in increasing their family members’ biological success?
Until now, these questions have not been examined in a thorough and comprehensive manner. Bringing togethertheoretical and empirical work byinternationally recognized scholars in anthropology, psychology, ethnography, and the social sciences, Grandmotherhood explores the evolutionary purpose and possibilities of female post-generative life. Students and scholars of human evolution, anthropology, and even gerontology will look to this volume as a major contribution to the current literature in evolutionary studies.
Henri Leridon University of Chicago Press, 1977 Library of Congress QP251.L4213 | Dewey Decimal 612.6
In this innovative and comprehensive work, expanded by one-third for the English-language edition, Henri Leridon integrates biology and demography to investigate human fertility, both natural and controlled. Traditionally, demographers have been concerned with birthrates in different populations under varying conditions, while biologists have limited themselves to the study of the reproductive process. Leridon has formulated the first coherent overview of the functioning of the human reproductive system in relation to the external conditions that affect fertility.
The book begins with a readable, authoritative review of human fertility in its natural state. Leridon summarizes and evaluates current knowledge, drawing together rare statistical data on physiological variables as well as demographic treatments of these data. After discussing the classical framework used by demographers, Leridon undertakes a "microdemographic" analysis in which he focuses on the individual and explicates the biological processes through which social, psychological, and economic factors affect fertility. He isolates its components—fecundability, intrauterine mortality, the physiological nonsusceptible period, and sterility—then reviews the composite effect of variation in any one component.
Leridon considers situations of controlled fertility: contraception, abortion, and sterilization. The author also presents valuable new data from his own investigations of varying risks of intrauterine mortality. Finally, he shows how the previous approaches can be complemented by the use of mathematical models.
Despite having similar economies and political systems, high-income nations show persistent diversity. In this pioneering work, Fred C. Pampel looks at fertility, suicide, and homicide rates in eighteen high-income nations to show how they are affected by institutional structures. European nations, for example, offer universal public benefits for men and women who are unable to work and have policies to ease the burdens of working mothers. The United States, in contrast, does not. This study demonstrates how public policy differences such as these affect childbearing among working women, moderate pressures for suicide and homicide among the young and old, and shape sex difference in suicide and homicide.
The Institutional Context of Population Change cuts across numerous political and sociological topics, including political sociology, stratification, sex and gender, and aging. It persuasively shows the importance of public policies for understanding the demographic consequences of population change and the importance of demographic change for understanding the consequences of public policies.
After decades of tremendous growth, Kinshasa-capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo-is now the second-largest urban area in sub-Saharan Africa. And as the city has grown-from around 300,000 people in the mid-1950s to more than five million today-it has experienced seismic social, economic, and demographic changes.
In this book, David Shapiro and B. Oleko Tambashe trace the impact of these changes on the lives of women, and their findings add dramatically to the field's limited knowledge of African demographic trends. They find that fertility has declined significantly in Kinshasa since the 1970s, and that women's increasing access to secondary education has played a key role in this decline. Better access to education has also given women greater access to employment opportunities. And by examining the impact of such factors as economic well-being and household demographic composition on the schooling of children, Shapiro and Tambashe reveal how one generation's fertility affects the next generation's education.
This book will be a valuable guide for anyone who wants to understand the complex and ongoing social, demographic, economic, and developmental changes in contemporary sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite the fact that, statistically, women of low socioeconomic status (SES) experience greater difficulty conceiving children, infertility is generally understood to be a wealthy, white woman’s issue. In Misconception, Ann V. Bell overturns such historically ingrained notions of infertility by examining the experiences of poor women and women of color. These women, so the stereotype would have it, are simply too fertile. The fertility of affluent and of poor women is perceived differently, and these perceptions have political and social consequences, as social policies have entrenched these ideas throughout U.S. history.
Through fifty-eight in-depth interviews with women of both high and low SES, Bell begins to break down the stereotypes of infertility and show how such depictions consequently shape women’s infertility experiences. Prior studies have relied solely on participants recruited from medical clinics—a sampling process that inherently skews the participant base toward wealthier white women with health insurance.
In comparing class experiences, Misconception goes beyond examining medical experiences of infertility to expose the often overlooked economic and classist underpinnings of reproduction, family, motherhood, and health in contemporary America.
In the capital of Ghana, a teenager nicknamed “Condom Sister” trolls the streets to educate other young people about contraception. Her work and her own aspirations point to a remarkable shift not only in the West African nation, where just a few decades ago women had nearly seven children on average, but around the globe. While world population continues to grow, family size keeps dropping in countries as diverse as Switzerland and South Africa.
The phenomenon has some lamenting the imminent extinction of humanity, while others warn that our numbers will soon outgrow the planet’s resources. Robert Engelman offers a decidedly different vision—one that celebrates women’s widespread desire for smaller families. Mothers aren’t seeking more children, he argues, but more for their children. If they’re able to realize their intentions, we just might suffer less climate change, hunger, and disease, not to mention sky-high housing costs and infuriating traffic jams.
In More, Engelman shows that this three-way dance between population, women’s autonomy, and the natural world is as old as humanity itself. He traces pivotal developments in our history that set population—and society—on its current trajectory, from hominids’ first steps on two feet to the persecution of “witches” in Europe to the creation of modern contraception. Both personal and sweeping, More explores how population growth has shaped modern civilization—and humanity as we know it.
The result is a mind-stretching exploration of parenthood, sex, and culture through the ages. Yet for all its fascinating historical detail, More is primarily about the choices we face today. Whether society supports women to have children when and only when they choose to will not only shape their lives, but the world all our children will inherit.
In recent years increasing numbers of women from wealthy countries have turned to egg donation, egg freezing, and in vitro fertilization to become pregnant, especially later in life. This trend has created new ways of using, exchanging, and understanding oocytes—the reproductive cells specific to women. In The Oocyte Economy Catherine Waldby draws on 130 interviews---with scientists, clinicians, and women who have either donated or frozen their oocytes or received those of another woman---to trace how the history of human oocytes' perceived value intersects with the biological and social life of women. Demonstrating how oocytes have come to be understood as discrete and scarce biomedical objects open to valuation, management, and exchange, Waldby examines the global market for oocytes and the power dynamics between recipients and the often younger and poorer donors. With this exploration of the oocyte economy and its contemporary biopolitical significance, Waldby rethinks the relationship between fertility, gendered experience, and biomedical innovation.
Plundered Kitchens, Empty Wombs examines the symbolic language of food, fertility, and infertility in a small, mountainous African kingdom to explore more general notions of gender, modernity, and cultural identity.
In the Cameroon grassfields, an area of high fertility, women hold a paradoxical fear of infertility. By combining symbolic, political-economic, and historical analyses, Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg traces the way reproductive threat is invoked in struggles over gender and ethnic identities. Women's fears of reproductive disorders, she finds, are an important mode of expression for their worries about much larger issues, such as rural poverty, brought about or exacerbated by political and economic changes in this century.
A lively case study of an infertile queen who flees the palace sets the stage for discussions of the ethnographic and historical setting, the symbolism of fertility and infertility, and the development and interaction of cosmopolitan and ethno-gynecologies. The book concludes with an analysis of the links between women's role in human reproduction and the divine king's role in social reproduction, both occurring in the rapidly changing context of a multiethnic African nation.
Plundered Kitchens, Empty Wombs underscores the relevance of medical anthropology to other anthropological specializations, as well as to epidemiologists, population specialists, and development planners. It should reach a broad audience in medical anthropology, public health, and women's studies.
Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Carleton College.
In most countries, educated women have fewer children and have them later than uneducated women. In Uncertain Honor, Jennifer Johnson-Hanks argues that this demographic fact has social causes by offering a rich case study of contraception, abortion, and informal adoption among educated, ethnic Beti women in southern Cameroon.
Combining insights from demography and cultural anthropology, Johnson-Hanks argues that Beti women delay motherhood as part of a broader attempt to assert a modern form of honor only recently made possible by formal education, Catholicism, and economic change. Through itinerant school careers and manipulations of marriage, educated Beti women now manage their status as mothers in order to coordinate major life events in the face of social and economic uncertainty.
Carefully researched and clearly written, Uncertain Honor offers an intimate look at the lives of African women trying to reconcile motherhood with new professional roles in a context of dramatic social change.