Ethnic Fertility Differentials in Peninsular Malaysia: Determinants and Policy Implications

Abdullah, Mawardi Bin

     This study addresses the issue of ethnic fertility differentials in Peninsular Malaysia. Several evidence have shown that fertility decline has not occurred uniformly among the major ethnic groups, especially between the Malays and the Chinese. First, it is observed that the onset of the major fertility decline differed for the different ethnic groups. While Chinese fertility began to decline in 1957, the decline for the Malays began in the sixties. Second, and more important, the speed with which fertility declines differs by ethnic group. The Chinese rate of decline is higher than that of the Malays. Utilizing the Malaysian Family Life Survey, this study attempts to determine the effect of differences in socio-economic and cultural variables on the fertility behavior of the different ethnic groups.
     The study finds two factors to have significant effects on the differences of fertility behavior of the ethnic groups. First is the effect of quality on the quantity of children. This study finds the effect of expected child quality to be positive and significant for the Malays but not significant for the Chinese. Second, the effect of the compatibility of women's work with childcare on fertility is different for the two ethnic groups. It is positive and significant for the Chinese but only significant for the Malays at a lower level of confidence.
     Expecting financial help from children and age at first marriage of the women are the variables which are shown to have very significant effect on the fertility for the Malays and the Chinese. Education of the women has a negative effect on the fertility of both ethnic groups. But the effect of women's income on fertility of both ethnic groups is found to be not significant. This finding supports the view that the substitution effect of women's income on fertility is weak in situation where women's work is compatible with childcare.