Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



The Paradox of Poverty: Socio-Economic Aspects of Population Growth.— By T. Scarlett Epstein and Darrell Jackson. The Macmillan of India Limited Delhi, 1975. pp.127.

To many social theoreticians, the population explosion, particularly in the developing nations presents a crippling threat to their developmental processes. Their argument’s validity rests mainly on the assumption that expected economic progress is swallowed up by unbalanced rise of numbers in the population. The book being reviewed deals mainly with this subject matter and is divided into two parts, each containing three articles contributed by various researchers. Part one, ‘The Social context of Fertility Decision’ is focused on analyzing the role of factors affecting fertility at the micro-level decision making process. The first article ‘Fertility decision in rural India’ by Vinod Jainath, examines the applicability to rural India of various models of the process of fertility decision making and finds most of these wanting with respect to the Indian social situation. While analyzing the fertility patterns of Rural India, he points out the positive need for larger families among the poor small farmers mainly due to labour supply considerations. The author argues that unemployment and underemployment actually motivate the poor to have more children as it better ensures their economic security in their old age. As the chances of gaining employment for their offspring diminish, they are induced to increase the total number of children in order that atleast one will be able to support them. Thus a vicious circle of poverty arises in large families because of each of the parents wanting to increase their children’s chances of employment by ultimately reducing the overall employment opportunities even further and exacerbating their poverty.

M. Javed Akbar Zaki

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