Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This study provides a diffusion analysis of changes in fertility, mortality and migration in Costa Rica, 1950-1973, as part of its process of demographic modernization. To this end, the national territory is divided into 64 observation units of variable size and shape, following county boundaries in 1950. Later sub-divisions were brought back to this original situation in order to control for boundary changes. The capital county of San Jose is conceptualized as the main innovation center from where all socio-cultural change originates. Contagious diffusion effects are measured on a distance scale, from county seat to San Jose: the farther away, the weaker the innovation impulse. Hierarchical diffusion effects are measured through an urbanization scale, from San Jose as the most urbanized county to lower units in the urban hierarchy. Results of this diffusion analysis indicate that the diffusion of fertility change over the period of observation followed more along hierarchical than contagious lines. No such patterns were observed for the diffusion of lower infant mortality, mainly because urbanization correlates positively with some, but negatively with other indirect mortality determinants. It is probably for this reason that a synthetic measure of diffusion combining the principles of contagion and hierarchy fails to perform properly in the case of infant mortality decline. Both principles were also found to influence concomitant changes in migration but the emphasis in this analysis is more on testing Zelinsky's hypothesis of the mobility transition than on unravelling contagious and hierarchical diffusion effects. Results of this test suggest that the mobility transition as followed differentially by Costa Rica's county units resembles the general pattern of migration changes in developed nations but the downward trend observed for the socioeconomically advanced core region seems steeper. The hypothesis is advanced that this may be due to the pioneering role played by central counties in Costa Rica's rapid fertility decline. The thesis ends up calling for more research on interactions between the three population components during demographic modernization, viewing the fertility transition not only in its dependence on changes in mortality and migration but as one of their determinants as well.



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