The remarkable decline in fertility in Iran, which saw the total fertility rate fall from 7 children per woman in 1986 to 2 in 2000, has received only limited analysis in the demographic literature. Using the 2000 Iran Demographic and Health Survey and Bongaarts’ age-specific fertility model, this paper examines the role of the major proximate determinants of fertility in bringing about the rapid decrease in fertility in Iran. The analysis indicates that contraception had the largest effect on fertility, accounting for 61% of the reduction in fertility from its theoretical maximum. The fertility-inhibiting effect of marriage patterns accounted for an additional 31% reduction, and was most important among the young. Further analysis of contraceptive behaviour suggests that the current period fertility rate of 2·0 children per woman is an outcome of a synchronization of delaying and spacing of births among younger women with stopping of childbearing among women in the middle and late reproductive ages. The policy implications of the results are discussed.
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