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Melvin Stephens, Estimating Program Benefits

The Impact of Family Size on Wealth Accumulation in Rural Thailand

Publication Abstract

Havanon, Napaporn, John E. Knodel, and Werasit Sittitrai. 1992. "The Impact of Family Size on Wealth Accumulation in Rural Thailand." Population Studies, 46: 37-51.

Studies on the economic utility of children in less developed countries have usually been focused on the net economic contributions of children of different ages, rather than on the cumulative effect of actual family size on the household's economic well-being. The latter question needs examination. The object of this study is to assess the impact of reduced family size in rural Thailand on accumulation of wealth at the household level, defined in terms of accumulation of goods, savings, and quality of housing.

There has been a substantial decline in fertility in Thailand since the late 1960s, brought about primarily by increased practice of birth control among married couples, and this provides an interesting setting for the study. Sufficient time has elapsed for the consequences of reduced family size to have been apparent among couples who limited their fertlity during the early stage of the decline. These couples can be compared to other in the same generation, who did not reduce their fertility to the same extent.

The data-collection phase of the project included a survey to provide quantitative data, and a series of focus-group discussions with a sub-set of respondents which provided qualitative data. The results illustrate clearly the positive effects of smaller family size on a couple's ability to accumulate wealth, as reflected in the quality of their housing and in the ownership of consumer goods and accumulated savings since the early stage of family building.

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