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Empowerment and Desired Fertility in Sub Saharan Africa

Advances in Women’s Empowerment: Critical Insight from Asia, Africa and Latin America

ISBN: 978-1-83982-473-9, eISBN: 978-1-83982-472-2

Publication date: 21 September 2020


Despite some decline, most Sub Saharan African countries still exhibit very high levels of fertility, resulting in the lengthening of the phase of strong population growth. Using Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data collected over a pooled sample of more than 430,000 married women living in 33 countries, the author examines the relationship between empowerment and desired fertility. The author constructs six different proxies of empowerment: two “objective” proxies (education and labor force participation), three “subjective” proxies (say in household decisions, non-acceptance of domestic violence, and no son preference), and a “relative” proxy (small spousal age difference). The author first shows that these six dimensions are related with one another and highly variable from one country to another across the region. the author then explores the relationship of these dimensions with desired fertility at the individual level. On the pooled sample, the author find that there is a strong and negative relationship between all six dimensions of empowerment and desired fertility: in other words, women who have a low degree of empowerment tend to want a higher number of children. This result still holds when taking into account country fixed-effects to account for country-level characteristics. However, when examining more closely the relationship at the country level, the author finds that there is some variation on the strength of the relationship and that its sign is reversed for some indicators in some countries. Lastly, the author finds that local context matters which suggests that empowerment policies should address both the individual and collective dimensions of empowerment.



Robilliard, A.-S. (2020), "Empowerment and Desired Fertility in Sub Saharan Africa", Ochman, M. and Ortega-Díaz, A. (Ed.) Advances in Women’s Empowerment: Critical Insight from Asia, Africa and Latin America (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 29), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 39-64.



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