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Is Fertility Behavior in Africa Different?

Claus C. Portner, Seattle University

Half a century ago, the total fertility rate was around seven children in most regions but is now around the replacement level of 2.1. The outlier is Sub-Saharan Africa. Fertility decline progressed at a much slower pace in Sub-Saharan Africa than elsewhere, and even appears to have stalled in some countries. This project uses DHS from countries in East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa to examine whether the determinants of urban fertility differ across regions. The sample consists of over 1,500,000 urban women. I focus on urban fertility for two reasons. First, urban areas tend to be less different across countries, allowing us to understand better whether Sub-Saharan Africa is inherently different. Specifically, the likelihood of unobserved or hard to measures factors, such as land access, affecting fertility is smaller in urban than in rural areas. Second, despite significant projected increases in urbanization, we know much less about the determinants of fertility in the urban than in the rural areas of developing countries. Results indicate that urban fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa mainly differs from other regions for women with primary education. There is little consistent evidence of differences for women with high school or above.

Keywords: Cross-country comparative analyses, Fertility and childbirth, Demographic dividend and economic development

See paper.

  Presented in Session 1. Production and Reproduction