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The causes of educational differences in fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa


  • John Bongaarts


This study first presents an analytic framework that describes the chain of causation linking fertility to its multiple layers of determinants. Next, this framework is applied to analyse the causes of educational fertility differences in 30 sub-Saharan African countries using data from DHS surveys. The results demonstrate that education levels are positively associated with demand for and use of contraception and negatively associated with fertility and desired family size. In addition, there are differences by level of education in the relationships between indicators. As education rises, fertility is lower at a given level of contraceptive use, contraceptive use is higher at a given level of demand, and demand is higher at a given level of desired family size. The most plausible explanations for these shifting relationships are that better-educated women marry later and less often, use contraception more effectively, have more knowledge about and access to contraception, have greater autonomy in reproductive decision-making, and are more motivated to implement demand because of the higher opportunity costs of unintended childbearing.

Suggested Citation

  • John Bongaarts, 2010. "The causes of educational differences in fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 8(1), pages 31-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:vid:yearbk:v:8:y:2010:i:1:p:31-50

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John B. Casterline & Steven W. Sinding, 2000. "Unmet Need for Family Planning in Developing Countries and Implications for Population Policy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 26(4), pages 691-723.
    2. Jejeebhoy, Shireen J., 1995. "Women's Education, Autonomy, and Reproductive Behaviour: Experience from Developing Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198290339, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mustafa Murat Yucesahin & Tugba Adali & A Sinan Turkyilmaz, 2016. "Population Policies in Turkey and Demographic Changes on a Social Map," Border Crossing, Transnational Press London, UK, vol. 6(2), pages 240-266, December.
    2. Jesús Crespo Cuaresma & Wolfgang Lutz & Warren Sanderson, 2014. "Is the Demographic Dividend an Education Dividend?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(1), pages 299-315, February.
    3. Sam Hyun Yoo, 2014. "Educational differentials in cohort fertility during the fertility transition in South Korea," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 30(53), pages 1463-1494, May.
    4. Burhan, Nik Ahmad Sufian & Md. Yunus, Melor & Tovar, María Elena Labastida & Burhan, Nik Mohd Ghazi, 2016. "Why are cognitive abilities of children so different across countries? The link between major socioeconomic factors and PISA test scores," MPRA Paper 77239, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Flatø, Martin & Kotsadam, Andreas, 2014. "Droughts and Gender Bias in Infant Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa," Memorandum 02/2014, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    6. Abhishek Kumar & Valeria Bordone & Raya Muttarak, 2016. "Like Mother(-in-Law) Like Daughter? Influence of the Older Generation’s Fertility Behaviours on Women’s Desired Family Size in Bihar, India," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(5), pages 629-660, December.
    7. Wolfgang Lutz, 2014. "A Population Policy Rationale for the Twenty-First Century," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 40(3), pages 527-544, September.

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