Women's Empowerment and Achievement of Desired Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa

Ushma D. Upadhyay, University of California, San Francisco
Deborah Karasek, University of California, San Francisco

Substantial research supports that women’s empowerment is associated with use of contraceptives, lower fertility, and longer birth intervals. Some suggest that women’s empowerment is a key pathway through which education influences fertility. This study explores factors that influence women’s ideal family size and achievement of wanted fertility using data from the Women’s Status module of two recent DHS surveys in four sub-Saharan African countries: Guinea, Mali, Namibia, and Zambia. Multiple linear regression models using matched couples data revealed that women’s empowerment indicators, including norms against wife beating and refusing sex, inter-spousal age difference, age at first birth, and ability to get permission to seek healthcare treatment, were significantly associated with women’s ideal family size. In the same models, controlling for sociodemographic factors, husband’s ideal family size was strongly associated with women’s desired fertility. This analysis suggests that women’s desired fertility is significantly associated with empowerment in a spousal relationship.

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Presented in Session 160: Women's Empowerment and Disempowerment in Developing Countries