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Population pressure and fertility in pre-transition Thailand

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Before the demographic transition in Thailand, fertility was high, but not uniformly so. As in other pre-transition settings, Thai fertility responded to pressures and opportunities created by socioeconomic structure and land availability. Drawing upon provincial data from the 1947 and 1960 censuses of Thailand, we find a strong 'frontier effect' on Thai fertility in the 1950s. Fertility was higher in sparsely settled frontier provinces and lower in provinces with higher population density relative to cultivatable land. This finding is robust and holds up with controls for agricultural employment, land quality, and the sex ratio (an indicator of sex-selective migration). The effect of population pressure lowers the likelihood of marriage and of marital fertility. The findings from Thailand are consistent with the research of Easterlin on the nineteenth century United States and with other pre-transition societies. We suggest how demographic transition theory might be broadened to include fertility dynamics in pre-transition societies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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