that's a very good question. The fertility rate is very high amongst the poor, although they seem to have the worst means to support many children. I guess the main reason is that women were/are not empowered enough to decide how many kids they should have. Another major factor is lack of availability/knowledge of contraceptives. Also, I think children provide the only "entertainment"(using this word very loosely) when you have no TV, no books etc; there may also be a feeling that having many children gurantees that some will survive to carry their "family" ahead (many might die due to lack of access to healthcare).
Lastly, child labour.
Most of these are purely speculative though. Its what I picked up when I asked my parents precisely the same thing
> I guess the main reason is that women were/are not empowered enough to decide how many kids they should have. Another major factor is lack of availability/knowledge of contraceptives.
The Hesperian's "Where There Is No Doctor"  offered another explaination - in some parts of the world people are too poor to not have many children. A child needs few years to grow, and then it can work for the family. This makes children an investment that returns itself with profit after few years, and it is good for the family to get many of them.
While ignorance on family planning matters and entertainment stuff(Again using that word loosely) have been factors(Remember the idea mobile phone ad? Where they cite power cuts contributing the other source of 'entertainment' which in turn contributes to population. So use idea 3G and get entertained in the other way).
The actual reasons really are 'reproduce until you get a boy' or 'have as many boys as you can' so that you can have something depend on in old age.
I don't think its as simple as saying that there is "actual reason" for anything that is so complex. For example: this obsession with males might be widely prevalent in the northern part of India, but its not as strong in the southern part.
You would because, you are not 60 and you are not being forced to do small time jobs for paltry income to just afford food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
A person goes and works small time jobs, struggles to put food on his table. He spends almost nothing. Struggles to pay rents, or buy clothes. All this while his hand and legs have no strength. Yet his peer who has a son eats dal, roti and kabab at home watching television.
Go and all the best trying to lecture that person, why not having a son was OK.
Honestly if you were to ask me, merely the thought of being that person scares me. I would save like hell now, have enough money to feed me until I die than be in such a position when I am 60.
>>Honestly if you were to ask me, merely the thought of being that person scares me.
Honestly, the thought of becoming either(small time job vs comfortable living with son oldman) of those old persons scare me. I would rather be an oldman, more like Ron from "Into the wild"(think lifestyle business), than either of these. Unfortunately, i can't rely on Federal Health care or pension for that.