Ethnic fertility differentials in Iran: trends and correlates

Mohammad J. Abbasi-Shavazi , University of Tehran
Hatam Hosseini, Bu-Ali Sina University

Iran has experienced unprecedented fertility decline during the last three decades. Total fertility has sharply declined from around 7.0 in 1979 to around 2.0 in 2000. Fertility decline has occurred simultaneously in all geographic area, across all reproductive age groups as well as among all ethnic groups. This paper aims to analyze trends and correlates of ethnic fertility difference in Iran during 1972-2000. Fertility measures are estimated using the own-children method applied to the 1986 and 1996 censuses as well as the 2000 Iran DHS. Development indices are used based on the two censuses to examine the relationship between the level of development and the pace of fertility decline. The focus of the paper is on four major ethnic groups namely Persians, Turks, Kurds and Baluch. The results reveal that ethnic groups have experienced different fertility levels and trends as compared with the national level during fertility transition period. The timing and pace of fertility decline have varied by ethnicity, and the convergence of fertility behaviours has occurred by the mid-1990s. Baluch ethnic group has had the highest fertility followed by Kurds, while Persians and Turks have displayed lower fertility than the other two ethnic groups. The lowest fertility was found among Gilaki who live in the northern part of Iran. The decline of fertility has occurred independent of the level of development suggesting the importance of ideational change and social interaction as the main factor behind the fertility transition in Iran. Implications of ethnic fertility differentials for the future of fertility in Iran as a multi-ethnic society are discussed.

Presented in Session 36: Completing Fertility Transition in Asia