The International Statistical Institute (ISI) established the World Fertility Survey program in 1972 with funding from UNFPA, USAID and the UK Overseas Development Administration. The surveys are nationally representative and generally include both a household and an individual (female) component. There were 42 WFS conducted in developing countries. Surveys were carried out by a national agency, often the statistical office. The surveys covered reproductive health, household characteristics such as family composition, marital status. Often surveys included additional topics such as water and sanitation, mortality, economic status, assets, religion and race. In addition, there were 20 WFS conducted in developed countries - these surveys used a set of instruments modified from those used for the developing countries. Portugal used these instruments but received technical and financial assistance from the developing country program. This information about the World Fertility Survey program comes from the Dynamic Data Base: Catalog of Survey Data Files by the International Statistical Institute, Voorburg, Netherlands, 1990. The WFS library consists of multiple cleaned, standardized micro-data files which are available for analysis on request at the International Statistical Institute.
This survey is part of a fertility survey series conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, covering contraceptives, reproductive health, breastfeeding and complete birth histories.Currently housed by Princeton, these surveys were originally done under the auspices of the International Statistical Institute from the 70s to the early 80s.
Between October 1981 and August 1982, a World Fertility Survey (WFS) was conducted in Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa. Nigeria has a population of 93.7 million (1984) and an estimated growth rate of 3.0%-3.5% WFS findings indicate that current conditions in Nigeria are conducive to continued rapid population growth in the future. These conditions include high fertility, strong pronatalist attitudes, an increase in the proportion of young people in the population, a low level of contraceptive knowledge and use, high infant and child mortality rates, and a decrease in breastfeeding duration and in postpartum sexual abstinence duration among urban and educated women. In the survey information was collected from a sample of 8623 households and from 9727 women of reproductive age residing in those households. These completed interviews represented a 93.4 response rate for the households and a 96.0% response rate for the individual women. 56.1% of the households were occupied by a nuclear family, 23.6% were occupied by an extended family, and 20.3% contained no married couples. Mean household size was 5.09 in urban areas and 5.83 in rural areas. Housing conditions were relatively poor in both rural and urban areas. 83.5% of the surveyed women were ever married. Marriage was almost universal; only 0.6% of the women aged 44-49 never married. Marriages were relatively stable, and those who divorced tended to promplty remarry. Preliminary analysis indicates that the age at marriage may be decreasing. The mean age at 1st marriage was 16.0 years for women aged 25-29 and 17.7 years for women aged 40-44. 42.6% of the currently married women were in polynous unions, and the mean age difference between husbands and wives was 12.56 years. 77.4% of the interviewed women were illiterate, 77.4% resided in rural areas, 35.0% were currently not working, 45.9% were Muslim, and 44.9% were Christian. Among all the surveyed women, the mean number of children ever born was 3.07. Women aged 45-49 had a mean of 5.84 ever born children. The total fertility rate for the 5-year period preceding the study was 6.34, and the total fertility rate for ever married women was 7.48. Women with secondary or higher educations had lower fertility than women with less education; however, women with primary schooling only had higher fertility than those with no schooling. Urban and rural fertility differences were small, but there were marked regional differences in fertility patterns. Preliminary analysis indicates that fertility increased between the early 1960s and mid-1970s, but declined slightly since then. Only 5% of the surveyed women wanted no more children, and average desired family size among currently married and fecund women was 8.3 children. Although infant and child mortality declined in recent years, the respective rates were still 84.8 and 144.5 for 1975-9. Among surveyed women, 66.3% had no knowledge of any contraceptive method. 85.9% never used any contraceptive method, 12.5% ever used an inefficient method (mainly postpartum abstinence), and only 2.6% ever used an efficient method. Only 0.7% of exposed women currently used an efficient contraceptive method. Breastfeeding is universal. Mean breastfeeding duration for the next to last child was 16.6 months. For ever married women, the mean duration of post partum amenorrhea in the last closed birth interval was 10.4 months, and the mean duration of sexual abstinence following the next to last birth was 14.1 months. The duration of both breastfeeding and postpartum sexual abstinence is shorter among educated and urban women than among rural and uneducated women.Source: Voorburg, Netherlands, International Statistical Institute, 1984 Sep. 18 p. (WFS Summary of Findings No. 49)
Kind of Data
Sample survey data [ssd]
Unit of Analysis
The survey covered topics including the following:
- Marital Duration, type and history
- Marital Status
- Age at marriage
- Marital duration
- Birth history
- Children ever born
- Living children
- Period of fertility
- Birth intervals
- Exposure status
- Fertility preferences
- Knowledge of birth control
- Ever use of birth control
- Current use of birth control
- Pattern of use of birth control
- Region of residence
- Type of place of residence
- Childhood place of residence
- Level of education
- Ethnic group
- Occupation before 1st marriage
- Work status before marriage
- Most recent occupation
- Most recent work status
- Place of work most recent
- Pattern of work
- Partner's childhood residence
- Partner's level of residence
- Partner's literacy
- Partner's occupation
- Partner's work status
Community level (rural cluster)
- Availability and access/distance to the following:
- Education (Schools available and distance to schools)
- Health services
- Consumer Items
Additionally, the Factors Other Than Contraception Affecting Fertility (FOTCAF) module covers topics including
- unsupplemented breastfeeding
- postpartum amenorrhea
- postpartum abstinence
All women, 15-49
Producers and sponsors
National Population Bureau
World Fertility Survey Program
International Statistical Institute
United States Agency for International Development
United Nations Population Fund
UK Overseas Development Administration
The 250 enumeration areas (EAs)of the Nigeria Fertility Survey are a subsample of the EAs used for the National Demographic Sample Survey 1980. It was originally intended as a self-weighting sample but problems of implementation led to the abandoning of this. The final sample of size 9727 includes weights to allow for the unequal probabilities of selection. The household and individual interviews were conducted on the same visit by the same (female) interviewers.
These completed interviews represented a 93.4 response rate for the households and a 96.0% response rate for the individual women.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
National Population Commission
The WFS Headquarters prepared survey documents for general guidance and use, principal among these being the survey instruments or questionnaires.
Two basic instruments were the Hosuehold schedule and the individual questionnaire for women.
1. The Household Questionnaire covered topics such as age, sex, marital status of household members
2. Individual questionnaire for women provides detailed information on maternity and marriage histories, contraceptive knowledge and use, and fertility regulation.
A husbands questionnaire and an individual core questionnaire for low fertility countries were also developed.
Optional supplementary modules on :
- Community level variables
- Economic questionnaires
- Factors other than contaception affecting fertility (FOTCAF)
- Family planning
- Fertility regulation
- General mortality
The FOTCAF module measures biological factors and traditional practices that affect fertility in countries with low levels of contraceptive use. It includes questions on the lengths of: breastfeeding, unsupplemented breastfeeding, postpartum amenorrhea, and postpartum abstinence.
The WFS core questionnaire included a complete live birth history; questions on the respondent's age, characteristics, and contraceptive use; and a record of the dates of marriages and marriage dissolutions. For African countries, one or more questions were asked about polygyny. Also included were questions on whether a woman's husband had other wives, and all (except Ghana) asked wives in polygynous marriages about their rank (first wife, second wife, and so forth). Several countries also asked about the number of other wives in the marriage.
In the Nigeria survey, the WFS core questionnaire, the FOTCAF Module, as well as supplementary surveys for household members and community were used. The FOTCAF module was modified so that (a) information was gathered about live-birth rather than pregnancy intervals and (b) provision was made to record information about the third to last interval, if this interval started within the five years preceding the survey. The latter ammendment removes much of the selection bias inherent in the standard FOTCAF module which is restricted to the last and last-but-one intervals.
Also recorded in the survey are : Place of and assistance at delivery of recently born children ; the existence of grandsons and granddaughters of the respondent, as well as the age of oldest. The purpose of these data is to test the hypothesis that the attainment of grandmotherhood is associated with terminal abstinence.
The community survey covers availability of facilities (post office, health services, police, courts, bank) and provision of services (water, electricity, fuel, transport, specified goods).
The data for Nigeria are available only with the following conditions: (1) The data on ethnicity may not be used. (2) The results of research or any part thereof may not be published in book form, except as required for the Ph.D. degree. (3) Two copies of the dissertation must be forwarded to the National Population Commission. (4) The data may not be redistributed. As OPR cannot enforce these conditions, the public archive contains only the data dictionary. The data dictionary has been attached as external resources.
To apply for a copy of the data please write:
National Population Commission
Private Mail Bag 12628
Use of the dataset must be acknowledged using a citation which would include:
- the Identification of the Primary Investigator
- the title of the survey (including country, acronym and year of implementation)
- the survey reference number
- the source and date of download
Disclaimer and copyrights
The user of the data acknowledges that the original collector of the data, the authorized distributor of the data, and the relevant funding agency bear no responsibility for use of the data or for interpretations or inferences based upon such uses.