Fertility Decline in Africa

Type Working Paper - The World Bank
Title Fertility Decline in Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 1990
URL http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/WP77/WP77.pdf
Fertility in Africa remains the highest in the world: the average total fertility rate for the continent is about 6.3 children per woman. With the possible exceptions of Botswana, Kenya and Zimbabwe, little evidence is found of the beginning of a "sustained and irreversible" fertility decline in Sub-Saharan Africa of the sort experienced in other developing areas. In those countries that seem to have witnessed some fertility decline, there remains considerable uncertainty about the causes and permanence of these trends.
Contraceptive use is low in Sub-Saharan Africa, but there is little evidence that shortfalls in contraceptive supply are primarily responsible for the low level of usage. Reported ideal familysizesremainquitehigh-- betweensixandninechildrenper woman -- suggesting that demand for contraception is low. Moreover, the use of contraception outside of marriage and for spacing purposes seems to be understood and accepted. Significant unmet demand for contraception may be found among young unmarried women, but there is little evidence of demand for increased fertility control among older women. This suggests that there is not likely to be a large immediate impact on total fertility -from expanded efforts in the provision of family planning.
Very little is known with certainty about the determinants of fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has been argued, on the one hand, that high levels of fertility in Africa are the result of low levels of development and, on the other, that they result from cultural factors specific to Africa. Aggregate data provide some support for both hypotheses: African women are on average less schooled than their Asian or Latin AmeriLcan counterparts, but even those African countries with moderate level of schooling have not experienced substantial declines in fertility. Although there are some differentials in fertility by women's education and area of residence, these differences are moderate and the relationship is not always in the expected direction. Existing studies of African fertility have not been able to properly interpret these relationships because of an absence of detailed economic data.
Analysis of the determinants of fertility in Africa using recently available data is likely to provide new insight into the prospects for fertility decline and the design of population policy. Examination of the determinants of fertility in African countries that appear to have experienced fertility declines will shed light on potential policy options elsewhere in Africa. The possibility that severe economic problems in many countries might be promoting or impeding fertility decline increases the need for evaluation of the microeconomic determinants of fertility and for a careful examination of social class differences in fertility, attitudes toward contraception and desire for future births. New datasets with the requisite information to study some of the most critical issues have become available; in particular, these datasets will allow analysis of the role of community characteristics, income levels and prices on fertility.
Future analysis should focus on four questions that are potentially answerable using existing data and that may prove useful in evaluating policy and targeting resources.
1. What are the sources and determinants of observed fertility decline in Africa?
2. What are the effects of education on fertility, desired family sizes, and contraceptive use and what are the
channels through which these effects operate?
3. What are the likely effects of increases in the availability and costs of schooling, health care and family planning services on contraceptive use and
4. What are the likely effects of increases in the availability of schooling, health care, and family planning services on measures of child quality, including
educational attainment, anthropometric status and child survival?

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