A Moveable Feast?: The Flexibility of Fertility Preferences in a Transitioning Malawian Community

Jenny Trinitapoli, Pennsylvania State University

This study asks about the role of uncertainty in shaping the fertility preferences of young adults in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). New data from Tsogolo la Thanzi, a study of 2500 young adults (15-24) in peri-urban Malawi, is used to assess the conditions under which respondents believe their preference will move, in which directions, and whether or not this move would be temporary (a tempo effect) or permanent (a quantum effect). We examine how concern about HIV predicts fertility desires as measured with the Coombs scale, a sensitive but rarely used tool. We draw upon a rich literature on uncertainty to theorize that heightened concern about HIV and the proximity of the threat of HIV translate into more malleable fertility preferences and a greater urgency to have children. Finally, we discuss what is - and what is not - unique about AIDS-related uncertainty in the Malawian context.

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Presented in Session 73: Family Planning, Reproductive Health and Fertility in Africa