Reproductive Intentions and Fertility Decline in Africa

Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, University of California, Berkeley
Sarah Walchuk, University of California, Berkeley

This paper examines fertility preferences in sub-Saharan Africa since 1995, using data from 17 Demographic and Health Surveys. In contrast to models of fertility transition as "a largely rational process" driven by "the desire for smaller families" (Bulatao 2001:11), the data suggest that fertility intentions are neither stable nor oriented primarily to child numbers, either in capital cities where fertility is falling or in rural areas where it is not. Specifically: a substantial proportion of women in all 17 countries who report their last birth as unwanted say that they now want more children; a substantial proportion of women who have attained or exceeded their stated ideal family size still want additional children, while a smaller but not insignificant number who have not attained their ideal family size want to stop; and in most countries the desired number of children does not predict children ever born once age is controlled.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Fertility Determinants, Family Planning, and Sexual Behavior