Legacy and policy in fertility transition: a comparative study of Indonesia and Nigeria

Geoffrey McNicoll, Population Council

Divergent fertility outcomes are commonly ascribed to differences in state action—that is, to government policy, deliberate or inadvertent. However, outcomes can also be traced to differences in cultural and institutional inheritance, the materials that societies find themselves endowed with—in brief, their legacy. Policy builds on some legacy elements and attempts to combat others. This distinction is applied to understanding the contrasting fertility trends of Indonesia and Nigeria over recent decades. Both countries are populous, resource-rich, and culturally diverse; both have experienced significant economic growth from similar levels in the 1960s, much of it under authoritarian government. But while Indonesia now has a life expectancy close to 70 years and fertility near two births per woman, Nigeria's life expectancy is still below 50, its fertility above 5. Important legacy differences, it is argued, have to do with family and community structures and traditions of public administration. Implications for a fertility-related reform agenda are discussed.

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Presented in Session 150: Policies and population