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

John Bongaarts

Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, 2010, vol. 8, issue 1, 31-50

Abstract: 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.

Date: 2010
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