Family Size, Economics and Child Gender Preference: A Case Study in the Nyeri District of Kenya
Kenyan women have more children, especially in rural areas, than in most developing nations. This is widely believed to be an impediment to Kenya’s economic development. Thus, factors influencing family size in the Kenyan context are important for its future. A brief review of economic theories of fertility leads to the conclusion that both economics and social/cultural factors must be considered simultaneously when examining factors that determine the number of children in a family. The need to do this is borne out in Kenya’s situation by utilising responses from a random sample of rural households in the Nyeri district of Kenya. Economic and social/cultural factors intertwine to influence family sizes in this district. After providing a summary of the main statistical results from the survey, we use multiple regression analysis to explore the influences of a woman’s age, level of education, whether she has outside employment, whether the family keeps livestock, whether she expresses a preference for more boys than girls, whether the family uses only family labour (including child labour) and the size of the farm, which is used as a proxy for family income. It was found that preference for male children has an important positive influence on family size in this district. Women were found to have greater preference for male children than their male counterparts possibly because of their fear of being disinherited if they do not produce an heir for their husbands. Preference for sons was also found in allocation of human capital resources at the household level in that the female respondents were found to have lower levels of education than their male counterparts. Various long-term policies are outlined that may help to reduce the number of offspring of women in Kenya.
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