Variations in patterns of low fertility in South Korea in 2004: a county level analysis
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Since the early 1960s, South Korea has been going through a rapid fertility decline, along with its socioeconomic development and effective family planning programs. After achieving a desired replacement level of fertility in 1984, the total fertility rate (TFR) of Korea has gradually declined to the level of lowest-low fertility. According to 2004 vital statistics, the TFR for Korea was 1.16-below the lowest-low fertility level of 1.3. Also, Korea's fertility rates have fluctuated and varied spatially, even at the level of low fertility. Undoubtedly, Korean family planning programs have been effective in population control through the last 40 years, but since 2000, the shift to pro-natal policies indicates that Korea's fertility transition is no longer a response to family planning policies. Rather, the level of socioeconomic development is still considered to have a significant effect on Korea's fertility decline. Thus, in this thesis, the primary objective is to examine the socioeconomic determinants of fertility differentials and the variation in low fertility among the counties in South Korea in 2004. Using data from the 2000 census and 2004 vital statistics, I tested the hypothesized relationships between the level of socioeconomic development and fertility based on the demographic transition theory (DTT), by estimating several Ordinary Least Square (OLS) multiple regression models. Specifically, socioeconomic predictors, such as agricultural attainment, labor force participation, and educational attainment, were primarily examined to test the validity of the DTT hypotheses. In addition, this thesis also examined the effects of women's status and traditional norms and cultural values on variation in fertility. My results showed that the DTT is applicable to an accounting of the variance in fertility rates among the Korean counties in 2004. Although the levels of fertility are extremely low all across the country, it is apparent that socioeconomic conditions are having an impact on fertility differentials in Korea.