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Development in Colombia has involved changes in many interrelated areas including health, education, female labour-force participation, urban migration, and the status of women. All these changes affected fertility. Figures that the demographic transition which began at the end of the 1930s occurred with a time-lag of over a decade between the urban and rural areas, and with large differences among socio-economic groups. It happened more quickly in those sectors of the population favoured with higher incomes, greater access to services, and better living conditions.

Fig. 4. Time budgeting, rural young women

Fig. 5. Time budgeting, rural old women (low stratum)

A comparison of age-cohorts representing behaviour before and after the demographic transition indicates that it was the result of changes in the process of family formation, as well as in attitudes towards other variables, which affect this. These differed between socio-economic strata and between urban and rural populations. In Bogota, there were substantial changes in the formation and expansion of families, with great variation between socio-economic strata. In comparable rural sectors in the provinces of Boyacá and Cundinamarca, there were substantial changes in the size of families but not in their stages of formation, and this applied to all socio-economic strata.

Changing marriage patterns have contributed to a decline in fertility among urban women in the upper stratum. However, nuptiality has not played an important role in the decline among urban women in the low and middle strata and all rural women, who have achieved their smaller families through contraception. There seemed to be an important difference in the use of birth control between the two areas. Urban women use it to space births as part of obtaining a smaller family. Rural women, on the other hand, use family planning after they have had the smaller family they want. Most rural women agreed married women should control their family size, but only after they had had some children.

Although there have been substantial gains in female education in both urban and country areas and in all strata, primary schooling was the most usual attainment in rural areas, primary and secondary education were common in the lower and middle urban strata, and higher educational levels were likely to be confined to the upper urban stratum. Education usually relates to lower fertility. However, evidence from both areas suggests that this only occurred after a certain level had been reached. Incomplete primary education may, in fact, lead to increased rather than decreased fertility. Completed primary school apparently marked the point from which education lowered the probability of early marriage and larger families. The higher educational Ievels of the younger women gave them more practical knowledge and access to information as well as broader perspectives which predisposed them to birth control. Contraception also became more readily available and these two factors combined to bring about the observed reduction in fertility.

Female labour-force participation also relates to educational attainment. Higher levels of education increase the opportunity cost of a woman's time, leading to greater workforce participation when suitable jobs are available, and to lower fertility. The study showed that not only have workforce participation rates increased, but there has been a movement among the younger cohort towards more skilled occupations in the urban areas and away from family agricultural work in the rural areas. These productive activities can conflict with women's reproductive role. In both areas, paid work which interfered with childbearing depressed fertility. Work in the service industries seems to have led to lower fertility, though this occurred more in some sectors than in others, whereas domestic work and home-based economic activity did not. However, contemporary occupational status did not appear to have a significant effect on fertility, suggesting that decisions about having children, once made, are not affected by employment. However, the number of children had a negative effect on the probability of female workforce participation.

Among urban women, place of origin did not have an important effect on family formation, but place of residence played a significant role in nuptiality and fertility patterns. City dwellers generally had more possibilities for education, a wider range of work opportunities, a better public health environment, greater access to family-planning services, and more avenues for social mobility. They also faced higher costs in raising children.

Although there had been a decline in both urban and rural fertility at the time of the survey, the rate among the younger rural cohort was the same, 3.3, as that of the older urban cohort in the upper stratum. Thus rural women's reproductive behaviour after the demographic transition was very similar to the behaviour of the urban women who enjoyed the best socio-economic conditions before it.

Techniques derived mainly from ethno-methodology revealed changes between the cohorts in both urban and rural areas which were generally in keeping with women's new ideas about themselves and their lives. However, there were important differences between the strata in their perceptions of such important aspects of their lives as sexuality, maternity, family planning, power relationships, and female work. Urban women in the upper stratum, especially the younger ones, were questioning traditional perceptions and seemed to be redefining their lives within a conceptual framework more attuned to the changes in their social environment. Younger women from the lower stratum, on the other hand, maintained more conventional approaches, for example to issues like morality and legality in relation to sexuality and contraception. In the rural area, where the demographic transition started later, there were no clear differences by stratum in women's attitudes and perceptions, although it seemed that women in the upper stratum have started to question the traditional vision of their roles.

Having children and the responsibility for them determines the way both urban and rural women shape their lives. Consequently women who participate in the workforce have undertaken responsibilities outside the household without seeking to alter the division of labour within it. It is to be hoped that in the future new ideas and perceptions of women's roles may be reflected in a more equitable reorganization and redistribution of domestic work.

The structural changes wrought by development and modernization over the last three decades have had a substantial impact on mortality and fertility. Government policies which improved education and health (including tacit official support for private family-planning services) have contributed, in many different ways, to lower fertility and mortality and to accelerating the demographic transition.

Both the urban and rural surveys show that education policies are a major means of intervention in both the behaviour and the socio-economic variables that influence family formation and expansion. As education depresses fertility only after the completion of elementary school, increased post-elementary education for women has an impact on nuptiality and fertility. At the same time, increased secondary and higher education has other mutually reinforcing effects by enabling greater female labour-force participation. The higher opportunity cost of educated women's time and their better chances of employment in the modern remunerated sector compete with their reproductive roles and tend to depress fertility and nuptiality.

Employment policies should take into account not only their influence on demographic trends, but also changes in the female labour market. The study suggests that women are likely to continue to increase their workforce participation rates. The survey also confirms that higher levels of education have led to a qualitative change in female labour-force participation. However, better qualifications lead to nontraditional occupations perhaps even more incompatible with reproductive roles, which suggests that creating greater opportunities for women to work in more responsible and well-paid jobs would have a further impact on family formation.

Employment aside, general improvements in living standards and the situation of women are likely to contribute to fertility decline: as a woman's social and economic opportunities improve she becomes more sensitive to the costs of bearing and rearing children. Higher female status in the home was associated with lower fertility among young urban women in the upper stratum.

Looking at women's lives provides insights into many aspects of the demographic change, while the differences thrown into relief by the urban and rural studies indicate the value of comparative studies of this kind. Collecting retrospective data to compile women's life-histories yielded usable, high-quality data, which has encouraging implications for further research along these lines. Proportional hazards models provided a very powerful analytical tool that avoided several biases introduced in models based on comparisons of censored populations and proved their usefulness in life-course research. As the use of statistical models for life-history data analysis is a relatively recent development, especially in developing countries, it would be highly desirable to encourage this. Steps to provide the necessary training for researchers in these countries would be a worthwhile beginning.

Life-history studies can be of significant assistance to policy-makers and planners, since a comparison of the experiences and characteristics of different cohorts can provide a basis on which to predict the reactions of those currently in the younger cohorts to various alternatives.

Complementary life-course approaches and time-allocation studies of households can provide a useful way to understand the effects of macro-economic changes on individuals and households. This study aimed to contribute to new methodological techniques which will furnish a better understanding of the myriad ways in which families adapt to changing conditions.


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