Stopping, Spacing and Postponing: Patterns of Fertility Decline in Africa

Tom A. Moultrie, University of Cape Town
Ian M. Timaeus, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

We have argued previously that dichotomizing motives for birth control into stopping and spacing of childbearing distorts the nature of those motivations. Postponing (i.e. delaying having another birth for reasons other than the age of one’s youngest child or existing family size) is a third, distinct, childbearing strategy. A novel pattern of lengthening median birth intervals exists across sub-Saharan Africa which, as originally hypothesised by the Caldwells, vary little by age or parity. This paper investigates birth intervals by fitting regression models to data from 66 Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 25 Africa countries during the last twenty years. In countries where birth intervals have lengthened greatly, this lengthening is accounted for almost entirely by increased use of modern contraceptive methods. Limited evidence exists for parity-specific family size limitation in any country. Age and parity are not significant determinants of birth interval length in the African fertility transition.

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