Analysis of Economic Determinants of Fertility in Iran: A Multilevel Approach

Document Type: Original Article


1 Department of Management and Health Economics, School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Demography, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

3 Faculty of Management and Economics, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran

4 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


During the last three decades, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in Iran has fallen considerably; from 6.5 per woman in 1983 to 1.89 in 2010. This paper analyzes the extent to which economic determinants at the micro and macro levels are associated with the number of children in Iranian households.
Household data from the 2010 Household Expenditure and Income Survey (HEIS) is linked to provincial data from the 2010 Iran Multiple-Indicator Demographic and Health Survey (IrMIDHS), the National Census of Population and Housing conducted in 1986, 1996, 2006 and 2011, and the 1985–2010 Iran statistical year books. Fertility is measured as the number of children in each household. A random intercept multilevel Poisson regression function is specified based on a collective model of intra-household bargaining power to investigate potential determinants of the number of children in Iranian households.
Ceteris paribus (other things being equal), probability of having more children drops significantly as either real per capita educational expenditure or real total expenditure of each household increase. Both the low- and the high-income households show probabilities of having more children compared to the middle-income households. Living in provinces with either higher average amount of value added of manufacturing establishments or lower average rate of house rent is associated to higher probability of having larger number of children. Higher levels of gender gap indices, resulting in household’s wife’s limited power over household decision-making, positively affect the probability of having more children.
Economic determinants at the micro and macro levels, distribution of intra-household bargaining power between spouses and demographic covariates determined fertility behavior of Iranian households.


Main Subjects

  1. Cleland JG. Trends in Human Fertility. In Heggenhougen HK, editor. International Encyclopedia of Public Health. Oxford: Academic Press; 2008. p. 364-71
  2. Haub C, Yanagishita M. World population data sheet. Washington DC: Population Reference Bureau; 2011.
  3. Abbasi-Shavazi MJ, McDonald P, Hosseini-Chavoshi M. National and Provincial Level Fertility Trends in Iran, 1972–2006. In: Abbasi-Shavazi MJ, McDonald P, Hosseini-Chavoshi M, editors. The Fertility Transition in Iran: Revolution and Reproduction. Netherlands: Springer; 2009. doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-3198-3
  4. Abbasi-Shavazi MJ, McDonald PF, Hosseini-Chavoshi M. The fertility transition in Iran: Revolution and reproduction. Netherlands: Springer; 2009. doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-3198-3
  5. Abbasi-Shavazi MJ, Torabi F. Women’s Education and Fertility in Islamic Countries. In: Groth H, Sousa-Poza A, editors. Population Dynamics in Muslim Countries. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer; 2012.
  6. Aghajanian A. A new direction in population policy and family planning in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Asia Pac Popul J 1995; 10: 3.
  7. Aghajanian A, Mehryar AH. Fertility transition in the Islamic Republic of Iran: 1976-1996. Asia Pac Popul J 1999; 14: 21.
  8. Aghajanian A, Merhyar AH. Fertility, contraceptive use and family planning program activity in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Int Fam Plan Perspect 1999; 25: 98-102. doi: 10.2307/2991948
  9. Erfani A, McQuillan K. The Changing Timing of Births in Iran: An Explanation of the Rise and Fall in Fertility After the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Biodemography Soc Biol 2014; 60:  67-86. doi: 10.1080/19485565.2014.899428
  10. Salehi-Isfahani D, Abbasi‐Shavazi MJ, Hosseini‐Chavoshi M. Family planning and fertility decline in rural Iran: the impact of rural health clinics. Health Econ 2010; 19: 159-80. doi: 10.1002/hec.1613
  11. Torabi F. Marriage postponement and fertility decline in Iran. London: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (University of London); 2011.
  12. Cochrane SH. Children as by-products, investment goods and consumer goods: a review of some micro-economic models of fertility. Popul Stud 1975; 29: 373-90. doi: 10.1080/00324728.1975.10412706
  13. Folbre N. Children as public goods. Am Econ Rev 1994; 84: 86-90.
  14. Malthus TR, Hollingsworth T. An essay on the principle of population. London: Dent; 1973.
  15. Becker GS. Nobel lecture: The economic way of looking at behavior. J Polit Econ 1993; 101; 385-409.
  16. Galor O, Weil DN. Population, technology, and growth: From Malthusian stagnation to the demographic transition and beyond. Am Econ Rev 2000; 90: 806-28. doi: 10.1257/aer.90.4.806
  17. Robinson WC. The economic theory of fertility over three decades. Popul Stud 1997; 51: 63-74.
  18. Becker GS. A Treatise on the Family. Harvard: Harvard University Press; 2009.
  19. Becker GS, Duesenberry JS, Okun B. An economic analysis of fertility. In: Becker GS, editor. Demographic and economic change in developed countries. New York: Columbia University Press; 1960. p. 209-40.
  20. Becker GS, Murphy KM, Tamura R. Human capital, fertility, and economic growth. In: Becker GS, editor. Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education. 3rd Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 1994. p. 323-50.
  21. Pollak RA. Gary Becker's contributions to family and household economics. Rev Econ Househ 2003; 1: 111-41. doi: 10.3386/w9232
  22. Becker GS, Lewis HG. Interaction between quantity and quality of children. In: Becker GS, editor. Economics of the family: Marriage, children, and human capital. Cambridge: UMI; 1974. p. 81-90.
  23. Vermeulen F. Collective household models: principles and main results. J Econ Surv 2002; 16: 533-64. doi: 10.1111/1467-6419.00177
  24. Bourguignon F, Chiappori PA. Collective models of household behavior. Eur Econ Rev 1992; 36: 355-364. doi: 10.1016/0014-2921(92)90091-a
  25. Brhaving M, Chiappori PA, Lechene V. Collective and unitary models: A clarification. Rev Econ Househ 2006; 4: 5-14. doi: 10.1007/s11150-005-6694-2
  26. Samuelson PA. Social indifference curves. Q J Econ 1956; 70: 1-22. doi: 10.2307/1884510
  27. Manser M, Brown M. Marriage and household decision-making: A bargaining analysis. Int Econ Rev 1980; 21: 31-44. doi: 10.2307/2526238
  28. McElroy MB, Horney MJ. Nash-bargained household decisions: Toward a generalization of the theory of demand. Int Econ Rev 1981; 22: 333-49. doi: 10.2307/2526280
  29. Iyigun M, Walsh RP. Endogenous gender power, household labor supply and the demographic transition. J Dev Econ 2007; 82: 138-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2005.09.004
  30. Chiappori PA. Rational household labor supply. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society 1988; 56: 63-90. doi: 10.2307/1911842
  31. Brhaving M, Chiappori PA. Efficient intra-household allocations: A general characterization and empirical tests. Econometrica 1998; 66: 1241-78. doi: 10.2307/2999616
  32. Klawon E, Tiefenthaler J. Bargaining over family size: the determinants of fertility in Brazil. Popul Res Policy Rev 2001; 20: 423-40.
  33. Dosman D, Adamowicz W. Combining stated and revealed preference data to construct an empirical examination of intrahousehold bargaining. Rev Econ Househ 2006; 4: 15-34.
  34. Chiappori PA. Collective labor supply and welfare. J Polit Econ 1992; 100:437-67.
  35. Apps PF, Rees R. Collective labor supply and household production. J Polit Econ 1997; 105: 178-90.
  36. Agadjanian V, Dommaraju P, Glick J. Reproduction in upheaval: ethnicity fertility and societal transformations in Kazakhstan. Population Studies: A Journal of Demography 2006; 62: 211-33. doi: 10.1080/02615470802045433
  37. Billingsley S. The post-communist fertility puzzle. Popul Res Policy Rev 2010; 29: 193-231.
  38. Billingsley S. Second and third births in Armenia and Moldova: An economic perspective of recent behaviour and current preferences. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie 2011; 27: 125-55. Doi: 10.1007/s10680-011-9229-y
  39. Eun KS. Understanding recent fertility decline in Korea. Journal of Population and Social Security (Population) 2003; 1: 574-95.
  40. Goldstein JR, Sobotka T, Jasilioniene A. The End of “Lowest‐Low” Fertility? Popul Dev Rev 2009; 35: 663-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2009.00304.x
  41. Hashimoto Y, Kondo A. Long-term effects of labor market conditions on family formation for Japanese youth. Osaka: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University; 2010.
  42. Kohler HP, Kohler I. Fertility decline in Russia in the early and mid 1990s: The role of economic uncertainty and labour market crises. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie 2002; 18:  233-62.
  43. Sobotka T, Skirbekk V, Philipov D. Economic recession and fertility in the developed world. Popul Dev Rev 2011; 37:  267-306. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2011.00411.x
  44. Hondroyiannis G. Modeling household fertility decisions in Greece. Soc Scie J 2004; 41: 477-83. doi: 10.1016/j.soscij.2004.04.003
  45. Matysiak A, Vignoli D. Fertility and women’s employment: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie 2008; 24: 363-84. doi: 10.1007/s10680-007-9146-2
  46. Melkersson M, Rooth DO. Modeling female fertility using inflated count data models. J Popul Econ 2000; 13: 189-203. doi: 10.1007/s001480050133
  47. Schultz TP. Eroding the economic foundations of marriage and fertility in the United States. Structural Change and Economic Dynamics 1998; 9: 391-413. doi: 10.1016/s0954-349x(98)00039-3
  48. Eswaran M. The empowerment of women, fertility, and child mortality: Towards a theoretical analysis. J Popul Econ 2002; 15: 433-54. doi: 10.1007/s001480100070
  49. Jejeebhoy SJ. Women's education, autonomy, and reproductive behaviour: Experience from developing countries. Oxford; Clarendon Press; 1995.
  50. Kodzi IA, Johnson DR, Casterline JB. To have or not to have another child: Life cycle, health and cost considerations of Ghanaian women. Soc Sci Med 2012; 74: 966-72. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.12.035
  51. Sanderson SK, Dubrow J. Fertility decline in the modern world and in the original demographic transition: Testing three theories with cross-national data. Popul Environ 2000; 21: 511-37. doi: 10.1007/bf02436770
  52. MacPhail F, Dong XY. Women's market work and household status in rural China: Evidence from Jiangsu and Shandong in the late 1990s. Fem Econ 2007; 13:  93-124.
  53. Rasul I. Household bargaining over fertility: Theory and evidence from Malaysia. J Dev Econ 2008; 86:  215-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2007.02.005
  54. Mabsout R, Van Staveren I. Disentangling bargaining power from individual and household level to institutions: Evidence on women’s position in Ethiopia. World Development 2010; 38: 783-96. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2009.11.011
  55. McDonald P. Gender equity, social institutions and the future of fertility. J Popul Res 2000; 17: 1-16. doi: 10.1007/BF03029445
  56. Oláh LS. Gendering fertility: Second births in Sweden and Hungary. Popul Res Policy Rev 2003; 22: 171-200.
  57. Van Staveren I, Odebode O. Gender norms as asymmetric institutions: A case study of Yoruba women in Nigeria. J Econ Issues 2007; 41: 903-25.
  58. Adsera A. Vanishing children: From high unemployment to low fertility in developed countries. Am Econ Rev 2005; 95: 189-93. doi: 10.1257/000282805774669763
  59. Erosa A, Fuster L, Restuccia D. Fertility decisions and gender differences in labor turnover, employment, and wages. Rev Econ Dyn 2002; 5: 856-91. doi: 10.1006/redy.2002.0195
  60. Hausmann R, Tyson L, ahidi S. Global gender gap report. Geneva: World Economic Forum; 2011
  61. Hausmann R, Tyson LD, Zahidi S. The Global Gender Gap Report. Geneva: World Economic Forum; 2009.
  62. Gelman A. Data analysis using regression and multilevel/hierarchical models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2007.
  63. Goldstein H. Multilevel statistical models (Vol. 922). Chichester: Wiley; 2011. doi: 10.1002/9780470973394
  64. Hank K, Kreyenfeld M. A multilevel analysis of child care and women's fertility decisions in Western Germany. J Marriage Fam 2003; 65: 584-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00584.x
  65. Greene WH, Zhang C. Econometric analysis (Vol. 5). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall; 2009.
  66. Verbeek M. A guide to modern econometrics. New York: Wiley; 2004.
  67. Wooldridge JM. Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. Cambridge: The MIT press; 2002.
  68. Corroon M, Speizer IS, Fotso JC, Akiode A, Saad A, Calhoun L, et al. The Role of Gender Empowerment on Reproductive Health Outcomes in Urban Nigeria. Matern Child Health J 2014; 18:  307-15. doi: 10.1007/s10995-013-1266-1
  69. Woldemicael G. Women's autonomy and reproductive preferences in Eritrea. J Biosoc Sci 2009; 41:  161. doi: 10.1017/s0021932008003040
  70. Quesnel-Vallée A, Morgan SP. Missing the target? Correspondence of fertility intentions and behavior in the US. Popul Res Policy Rev 2003; 22: 497-525. Doi: 10.1023/B:POPU.0000021074.33415.c1
  71. Voas D. Conflicting preferences: a reason fertility tends to be too high or too low. Popul Deve Rev 2003; 29: 627-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2003.00627.x
  72. Hank K. Regional social contexts and individual fertility decisions: A multilevel analysis of first and second births in western Germany. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie 2002; 18: 281-99.
  73. Van Bavel J. Choice of study discipline and the postponement of motherhood in Europe: The impact of expected earnings, gender composition, and family attitudes. Demography 2010; 47:  439-58. doi: 10.1353/dem.0.0108
  74. Docquier F. Income Distribution, Non‐convexities and the Fertility–Income Relationship. Economica 2004; 71:  261-73. doi: 10.1111/j.0013-0427.2004.00369.x
  75. Jones LE, Tertilt M. An Economic History of Fertility in the United States: 1826–1960. In: Rupert P, editor. Frontiers of Family Economics (Frontiers of Family Economics, Volume 1). Emerald Group Publishing Limited; 2008. p.165-230.
  76. Hondroyiannis G, Papapetrou E. Fertility and output in Europe: new evidence from panel cointegration analysis. Journal of Policy Modeling 2005; 27: 143-56. doi: 10.1016/j.jpolmod.2004.12.001
  77. Simon CJ, Tamura R. Do higher rents discourage fertility? Evidence from US cities, 1940–2000. Reg Sci Urban Econ 2009; 39: 33-42. doi: 10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2008.08.002
  78. Gertler PJ, Molyneaux JW. How economic development and family planning programs combined to reduce Indonesian fertility. Demography 1994; 31: 33-63. doi: 10.2307/2061907
  79. Arokiasamy P. Gender preference, contraceptive use and fertility in India: regional and development influences. Int J Popul Geogr 2002; 8:  49-67. doi: 10.1002/ijpg.236
  80. Poston DL Jr. Son preference and fertility in China. J Biosoc Sci 2002; 34: 333-47. doi: 10.1017/s0021932002003334
  81. Yamaguchi K, Ferguson LR. The stopping and spacing of childbirths and their birth-history predictors: rational-choice theory and event-history analysis. Am Sociol Rev 1995; 60: 272-98. doi: 10.2307/2096387
  82. Yount KM, Langsten R, Hill K. The effect of gender preference on contraceptive use and fertility in rural Egypt. Stud Fam Plann 2000; 31: 290-300. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4465.2000.00290.x
  83. Bhargava A. Desired family size, family planning and fertility in Ethiopia. J Biosoc Sci 2007; 39: 367-81. doi: 10.1017/s0021932006001593
  84. Kalwij A. The impact of family policy expenditure on fertility in western Europe. Demography  2010; 47:  503-19. doi: 10.1353/dem.0.0104
  85. Abadian S. Women’s autonomy and its impact on fertility. World Development 1996; 24: 1793-809.
  86. White MJ, Muhidin S, Andrzejewski C, Tagoe E, Knight R, Reed H. Urbanization and fertility: An event-history analysis of coastal Ghana. Demography 2008; 45: 803-16. doi: 10.1353/dem.0.0035
  87. White MJ, Tagoe E, Stiff C, Adazu K, Smith DJ. Urbanization and the fertility transition in Ghana. Popul Resh Policy Rev 2005; 24: 59-83. doi: 10.1007/s11113-005-0367-y
  88. Frejka T, Westoff CF. Religion, religiousness and fertility in the US and in Europe. European Journal of Population/Revue européenne de Démographie 2008; 24: 5-31.
  89. McQuillan K. When does religion influence fertility? Popul Deve Rev 2004; 30: 25-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2004.00002.x
  90. Voas D. Does religion belong in population studies? Environ Plan A 2007; 39:  1166. doi: 10.1068/a38154
  91. Westoff CF, Frejka T. Religiousness and fertility among European Muslims. Popul Deve Rev 2007; 33: 785-809. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2007.00197.x