Course: Social and Economic Aspects of Human Fertility

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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:
  • Students should begin the journal entry for a given reading with the full reference.
  • Students should identify the aims of the author(s), for example, to critically review a particular literature, or to answer a research question or to test a hypothesis.
  • Students should identify the data used in the reading, if any.
  • Students should identify the methods used in the reading, if any. Details of statistical analysis are not necessary. For example, it is sufficient to write "regression analysis" or "in-depth interviews" without further comment.
  • Students should list, in bullet form, no more than five main "take home messages" of the reading.
  • Students should list, in bullet form, the major strengths of the reading.
  • Students should list, in bullet form, the major limitations of the reading.
  • Students should write no more than five sentences on how this reading relates the general issues under discussion in the class overall.
  • Students should write no more than five sentences on how this reading relates to at least one other reading in the current unit.