Document Type



The Hmong “hill tribe” minority in Thailand has much higher exposure to factors usually associated with risk of child mortality (high fertility, low status of women, low education, less use of modern medical care for births, exposure to warfare, economic and physical disruption, and poor hygienic conditions) than the rural ethnic Thai population. None the less, infant mortality has declined from over 120 per 1000 to under 50 per 1000 live births among both these populations in the past 30 years. The reason for the rapid increase in child survival among the Hmong appears to be better access to and more use of modern curative and preventive medical care associated with road construction rather than major changes in social or hygienic conditions. Conventional wisdom suggests that high fertility is both a cause and a consequence of high infant and child mortality and that parents will not reduce fertility until they see that mortality has declined. Most Hmong parents recognize the decline in child mortality and attribute it to better access to modern medical care. Most Hmong parents also say that, if they were starting to have children now, they would want to have fewer children. Fear of child death is in frequently mentioned as a motive for having more children, and the perceived decline in child mortality is rarely mentioned as a reason for reduced fertility. Most Hmong parents explain their desired family size in terms of economic conditions rather than perceived risk of child mortality. Results of this study suggest that fertility and child mortality can vary independently of one another and that major reductions in child mortality can be accomplished without waiting for major social changes (e .g ., improved education or status of women) or major reductions in fertility.