Publication Date



Understanding the demographic transition, a trend in which fertility drops after a period of population growth, has been an important area of anthropological and demographic research. This dissertation seeks to understand fertility change by testing five models that have been presented in the literature. The predictions that are unique to each hypothesis are tested in San Borja, Bolivia, a community currently undergoing a fertility transition. Low modern fertility seems counter-intuitive given the increase of individual wealth, but there have not been sufficient tests to lead to an understanding of why this occurs. Informational hypotheses explain fertility transition as a change in information. People today have more information about and access to contraceptives, allowing them to control their fertility (known as the Contraceptive Knowledge Hypothesis). Once certain individuals begin to change their fertility strategies, these preferences can propagate through the population by means of social diffusion (referred to as Diffusion Theory). Economic models explain fertility change as a shift in the cost of children (Wealth Flows Hypothesis) or the impact of more job opportunities for women resulting in higher opportunity costs for having children (Female Labor Force Theory). Finally, evolutionary models explain fertility transition as a shift in the emphasis of producing quality offspring in response to a competitive labor market which motivates highly-skilled parents to invest greatly in themselves and their offspring, leading to higher levels of education and reduced fertility (Embodied Capital Theory). These models are evaluated by their ability to predict age of first birth, the rates of progression to each subsequent birth (for example, the progression from 2 to 3 children), their predicted causal pathway and finally, total fertility. Taken together, the results show support for a dual model including the Contraceptive Knowledge Hypothesis and the Embodied Capital Theory.


fertility, Demographic Transition, Contraceptive Knowledge, Embodied Capital Theory, Wealth Flows, Diffusion Theory


University of New Mexico's Research and Allocations Committee, Office of Graduate Studies' Research Project and Travel Grant""

Document Type




Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Anthropology

First Advisor

Kaplan, Hillard

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lancaster, Jane

Second Committee Member

Baker, Jack

Third Committee Member

Sear, Rebecca

Included in

Anthropology Commons