Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Both men and women make important contributions to the production of children, yet demographic studies of fertility and family planning have tended to focus on women alone. This paper traces the development of demography’s emphasis on women and describes how the limitations of its theoretical approaches to reproduction and empirical neglect of men have been mutually reinforcing. The paper is structured around four aims: 1) to describe why men have had a relatively low profile as subjects in demographic research on reproduction; 2) to explain growing interest in studying men’s roles; 3) to evaluate existing research on men in developing countries; and 4) to suggest directions for future research on men’s reproductive roles. We argue that men, once neglected, now feature prominently in demographic research but principally from a problem-oriented perspective and on a limited range of topics. Our review of existing studies, though, does not fully support a problem-oriented approach. Demographic research should examine men not only as women’s partners, but also as individuals with distinct and interesting reproductive histories of their own. As the links between marriage and childbearing continue to weaken around the world, the differences in men’s and women’s reproductive experiences and their costs and benefits related to parenting will become even more salient for future research.