The Population Council and Population Control in Postwar East Asia

Jan 01, 2009 | by
  • Description

In their 2006 Annual Review of Sociology article, sociologists S. Philip Morgan and Miles G. Taylor affirm that global demographic concerns in the second half of the twentieth century have shifted from rapid population growth to declining, sub-replacement fertility. The phenomenon of low fertility nowadays not only exists in Western Europe and North America but has also spread to the developing world. According to world demographic data, more than half of the global population now lives in countries with fertility at or below the replacement level. To explain the forces that have resulted in declining fertility, Morgan and Taylor develop a framework that covers the theories of fertility transitions from high levels to low. They offer a list of the factors that are closely related to fertility change, including economic, ideological, institutional, and technological (Morgan and Taylor 2006: 385). In spite of their effort to build a comprehensive scheme for understanding declining fertility around the world, Morgan and Taylor have difficulty 2 accommodating the fertility transitions of East Asia -- an area where regional fertility dropped from 5.5 in the 1950s to replacement level in the 1980s (Taiwan and South Korea) and 1990s (China) -- within the existing theories. Thus, the authors propose another explanatory category: path-dependence, which emphasizes distinctive national contexts (Morgan and Taylor 2006: 392). The need to come up with this new analytical category -- path-dependence with idiosyncratic explanations -- has two implications. First, it reveals the shortcomings in the sociological literature of a systematic understanding of fertility change in non-Western areas. Second, it also suggests the potential to distill the dominant forces of fertility change from the distinctive historical trajectories of non-Western states.