This is the syllabus used in conjunction with educational content offered by JHSPH. As a result, some of the information and/or materials listed here may not be relevant to or available for an OCW user's self-directed study.


Course Description

Analyzes the correlates of fertility levels in societies and childbearing among individuals and couples. Examines classical theories of fertility change at the societal level and contemporary critiques of these theories. Also examines the determinants of fertility at the individual level, with an emphasis on differences in the timing first birth and total family size by social class and ethnicity in developed and developing countries.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course students will be able to:

  1. Explain how the ideas advanced by Davis/Blake and Bongaarts can serve as a unifying conceptual framework for the study of human fertility;
  2. Distinguish among the "classic" theories of fertility decline;
  3. Delineate the major avenues by which these "classic" theories have been criticized;
  4. Identify key concepts from the literature on reproductive decision making; and
  5. Describe how, within particular social and cultural contexts, distal factors such as gender inequality, religion, the family and social class affect fertility through the proximal determinants.

Course Requirements

Attendance is mandatory and participation in class discussion is expected to be high. It counts for 20 points toward the final grade. The criteria for grading this aspect of student performance is NOT the specific ideas or questions students raise (this is a safe space to express ignorance, confusion, irritation at authors, and tentative, ill-formed ideas), but rather how participation reflects preparedness for class and careful consideration of ALL the assigned readings.
  1. Each student will facilitate a discussion at least once, alone or in partnership with other students. This counts for 10 points toward the final grade.
  2. Each student will be expected to keep a journal on some of the class readings. The class will be divided into three "assignment groups," each of which has a list of 14 readings that group members will be expected to keep a journal about. Submitted journal entries must be turned in before class on the day the reading is discussed in class. Journal entries submitted late will be penalized 1 point for each day or part thereof after they are due. Each journal entry submitted counts for 5 points toward the final grade (70 points). The format for the reading journal is as follows: