Educated moms have 50% fewer kids: Census
Rising education of girls has resulted in an accelerating dip in the average number of children born ge number of children born to them after they get married, Census 2011 data released Friday shows. India had nearly 340 million married women and the average number of children was 3.3, down from 3.8 in 2001and 4.3 in 1991.But hidden in this average figure is a wide range between an illiterate mother and a welleducated one. Current mothers, who were deprived of education in their early life and have remained illiterate, had 3.8 children on average. At the other extreme, mothers with a graduate degree or above had just 1.9 children. That’s half the number of children compared to illiterate mothers.

Average number of children is calculated by taking the number of children born to women in the age group 45-49 years, which is the end of their reproductive age representing the total children they can have. While the spread of education is widening with each passing year, school drop out rates are still unconscionably high among girls. An idea of this is gained from enrollment data for 2014-15 put out under the District Information System for Education (DISE), which shows that there were about 13 million girls enrolled in Class 1 but the number went down by 58% to 5.4 million in Class 12. With this kind of massive dropout, it will take many years for the overall fertility rates to decline substantially more.

Census data shows that between the two extremes of illiterate and graduate+ mothers, there is a continuum as the educational level increases, the average number of children goes down. Mothers who have not studied beyond class 8 (middle school) have three children on an average, those who dropped out between middle and high school had 2.8 children and those who had studied between class 10 and graduation restricted their children to 2.3.

Census 2011 also shows that this dipping fertility is speeding up. The rates of decline between 1991and 2001were 14% for mothers who studied up to middle school but bet ween 2001and 2011this decline was more at 18%. It was a similar situation for other educational levels. Is it just education of mothers that is causing this decline? Experts say that it is a key factor but accompanied by a set of other circumstances that go with mothers’ education. More educated women will likely be from better income households and they will likely be married to more educated men. So everything put together is helping.

The Census data also shows that there are still nearly 96 million illiterate married women who are in the child bearing age, that is, 15-49 years.And there also are about 16 million married women in the same age group that have not studied beyond primary level.