ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Paradox within a Paradox

Kerala is famous for the speed with which its fertility has fallen over the decades. During the fertility transition Kerala's GDP per head and industrialisation have remained low, even compared with the rest of India. In general, explanations for this fertility decline have regarded Kerala as a homogeneous society and paid little attention to internal differences. However, fertility is low among the most socially and economically disadvantaged group in Kerala society, the scheduled castes, the former 'untouchables' of the traditional caste system. Thus, not only is fertility in Kerala low (1.96), but for scheduled castes it is even lower (1.52). This reversal of normal expectations is studied in the context of a scheduled caste community, the Vettuvans. The most important reason for the reversal of fertility was caste-system change triggered by land reform, Gulf migration, and democratisation of education in the state.

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