Ethnicity and Fertility: The Philippine Case

by Maria Fe dela Cruz Nogra, Master of Arts in Demography (1998)

This thesis examined the relationship between fertility and ethnicity, using existing data on ever-married women aged 40-49 years. The respondents were interviewed in the 1993 National Demographic Survey (NDS). Membership in an ethnic group was defined by respondents’ ethnic self-identification, which turned out to be closely related to language spoken. The eight ethnic groups were Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Ilonggo, Bicolano, Waray, Muslim and all other lumped under the “others” category. The thesis determined whether differential fertility existed among eight major ethnic groups. The thesis explained the nature and extent of these differentials at the bivariate and multivariate levels. It hypothesized that ethnicity still significantly affected fertility, even when other important variables were simultaneously considered.

The study’s framework considered four ways of grouping the predictors of fertility, the first group of predictors included socio-economic variables which were residence, education and employment status. The second group pertained to cultural variables which included ethnicity, religion and media exposure. The third group related to two demographic variables (age at first marriage and child mortality experience). The fourth group included psychosocial variables such as knowledge and use of contraception and reproductive preference. The net direct effect of ethnicity on fertility was the main concern and was determined through the use of analysis of variance and multiple classification analysis.

The fertility measure used was children ever born (CEB) which was an aggregate measure of a woman’s lifetime fertility experience up to the time of the NDS.

The findings supported the hypothesis that ethnicity was significantly associated with fertility. A combination of cultural (ethnicity), socioeconomic (education, residence, employment status), demographic (age at first marriage, child mortality experience) and psychosocial (ideal family size) factors emerged as significant fertility determinants. The effect of ethnicity remained significant even after controlling for the effects of the other important variable.

An analysis of specific ethnic groups showed that the Ilocanos and Tagalogs displayed low fertility, while the Bicolanos, Ilonggos, and Warays exhibited high fertility. The Cebuanos showed moderate fertility. These results were consistent with of earlier ethnicity-fertility studies. The findings of this thesis, however, showed that while Muslims indeed had high levels of fertility and fertility preferences, they were likely to exhibit low fertility when the socioeconomic, demographic, and psychosocial variables were held constant.

Results also confirmed that observations in previous studies on the influence of residence and education on fertility. Rural residents tended to have higher fertility rates than urban residents. The lowly-educated women possessed higher fertility rate than those with higher levels of educational attainment.

The findings have policy and research implications. Regarding target setting for population and development programs at the policy level, this thesis proposes that greater attention be given on the relationship between cultural factors and fertility behavior, and how elements of culture can serve as the basis or entry point for program intervention.

There is a need for the integration of more cultural variables in demographic data gathering instruments. This would encourage and facilitate research on the role of cultural factors in fertility. The following demographic topics are presented for consideration in future research: extent and impact of polygamous marriages among Muslims and other polygamous groups; intra-family relations , gender preferences, and value of children among ethnic groups; specific cultural belief; traditions, and practices that affect fertility preference and performance; and specific cultural myths, rituals, and practices that can be used as access point for population and development programs.