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This paper compares the desired fertility of rural Indian women in 1987 with their actual fertility in 2007. Seventy-one respondents who stated definite fertility intentions and had fewer children than desired in 1987 were re-interviewed 20 years later, as part of a larger study. The results indicated that these women had fewer children than intended and stopped childbearing once they reached, or approximated, their desired number of sons. The majority had been sterilized, indicating broad acceptance of lower fertility among rural women and the success of India's family planning efforts, although the practice of sex determination seems also to have played a role. These findings echo those of an earlier longitudinal study of reproductive intentions and outcomes in the same community, demonstrating the persistence of son preference in determining reproductive behaviour, even in the context of low overall fertility. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy and programme implications of the study's findings.

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Journal of Biosocial Science
  • ISSN: 0021-9320
  • EISSN: 1469-7599
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-biosocial-science
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