Desired and achieved fertility of the women of Tehran

Author: Maryamsadat Hosseini

Hosseini, Maryamsadat, 2019 Desired and achieved fertility of the women of Tehran, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


The findings of the 2016 Iranian Census show that the total fertility rate (TFR) has reached sub-replacement levels in 15 out of the 31 provinces of Iran. In particular, in the province of Tehran, a woman gives birth to only 1.5 children on average during her reproductive period. However, the ‘two children’ norm still prevails in the country and even women of young reproductive age value having two children on average. In other words, there exists a gap between a couple’s actual and desired fertility.

This thesis examines the gap between actual and desired fertility among a statistically drawn sample of 400 women aged 15-49 from five selected regions of Tehran city (the capital of Iran), which would be a representation of a combination of the country’s various ethnic and cultural groups. More specifically, the thesis analyses the relationship of demographic and socio-economic variables, such as age, age at first marriage, sex composition of their surviving children, consanguineous marriage, women’s level of education, their employment status and women’s contraceptive use, with the gap between the women’s actual and desired family sizes. The study is based on analyses of primary as well as secondary data. The primary data were collected during fieldwork in Tehran city in 2015.

One of the objectives of this study is to investigate the gap between desired and actual fertility. The fertility gap was categorised into three groups: underachieved (when the difference is negative), achieved (when the difference is zero) and overachieved (when the difference is positive). The findings of this study show that all mentioned demographic and socio-economic variables, except contraceptive use, have a statistically significant relationship with the fertility gap. Moreover, almost 60 percent of women have either achieved or overachieved their desired fertility.

Since this study is conducted in the low fertility context of Tehran city, it was also pertinent to examine contraceptive use as one of the proximate determinants of fertility. The results of logistic regression show that the odds of withdrawal use (the most prevalent method) increased with improvement in women’s educational attainment. Moreover, women who lived in regions with the higher levels of socio-economic development were more likely to practise withdrawal (as opposed to modern methods) than women who lived in regions with lower levels of development.

An examination of Iran’s population policies which are among the most successful family planning programs in developing countries shows that the influence of socio-economic development, such as improvements in women’s education, has been more effective in reducing fertility in the country. Regarding the new pronatalist population approach adopted by the government, in response to open-ended questions during the interviews the women stated that the total fertility rate should be determined by the decision of individual couples as to how many children they want based on their individual needs assessment rather than what by the government wanted them to do.

Keywords: Desired family size, Expected family size, Actual fertility, Fertility gap, Achieved fertility, Tehran, Iran

Subject: Population and Human Resources thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2019
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Associate Professor Udoy Saikia