Fertility Behavior in Rural and Urban Indonesia

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Abstract

The cross-sectional picture of urban and rural fertility which emerges from recently published Indonesian national level data from the 1976 Intercensal Survey are described. The data reveal only small differences in the average numbers of children ever born or children surviving of ever married women (or mothers) in urban and rural areas of Indonesia. In urban areas, ever married mothers had a standardized average of 3.4 children ever born, and in rural areas 3.3 These averages cannot reveal any differences in past and present childbearing levels. The fertility of urban women, as opposed to rural women, appeared more highly associated with indicators which tend to directly or indirectly depress the average number of children ever born: a higher age at 1st marriage; a higher level of "sterility;" a higher survival ratio of children born; and a higher level of educational attainment. At least some of these factors might be regarded as associated with modernizing trends in the urban areas: increased accessibility to educational facilities; the opening of female opportunities outside the home so that marriage occurs later in life; and a better health environment so that there is less pregnancy wastage and time spent in bearing children. These factors help to provide an incentive to women to limit their fertility; knowledge of contraception methods provides a means. The depressing factors most highly associated with average rural fertility do not appear associated with modernization but with traditional folk customs regarding acceptable behavior. The inflating effects of early marriage are offset by a greater prevalence of marital disruption. This may reflect a cultural acceptability. The reasons may include adolescent or true sterility leading to disunion, the outmigration of a partner, or some other form of disharmony. Female labor force participation is more prevalent in rural than urban areas. There are both traditional and modern aspects to be seen in its restraining effect on average fertility. Both traditional and modern sector jobs have a negative association with fertility. Those jobs which take a woman away from the home were the most forceful in their association with lower fertility. Also noticed was what might be an overriding direct effect of the government's family planning program on the compatibility of agricultural occupations with childbearing, through its promotion of birth control. When stratified, the data yield variations in urban and rural fertility behavior which speak of change occurring in the traditional rural society.