Middle Class Dreams: India’s One Child Families

Alaka Malwade Basu, Cornell University
Sonalde B. Desai, University of Maryland

This paper discusses the emergence of a new demographic sub-group in India – the one child family. Propelled neither by China’s kind of population policy nor by the kind of societal changes that characterize the second demographic transition in the industrialized world, a significant and possibly rising proportion of urban educated families now stop childbearing after one child, regardless of the sex of that child. We seek to describe the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of this population sub-group as well as to speculate on the reasons for its existence. In particular, we consider the possibility that it represents a logical response to a situation of rising material aspirations that are created by the recent swift economic growth in the country but are outstripping this economic growth, so that severe restraints on fertility are the only way to both afford more material goods as well as invest more heavily in children.

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Presented in Session 74: The Emergence of Very Low Fertility in China and India