Nav: Home

Stalled fertility declines linked to disruptions in women's education in Africa

February 07, 2019

A recent stall in declining fertility rates in Africa is at least partially due to disruptions in women's education, according to a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The stalls in fertility decline have been a puzzle to researchers for many years since Africa was expected to undergo the 'demographic transition,' where socioeconomic development leads first to reduced death rates, and after some lag, to reduced birth rates," says IIASA researcher Endale Kebede, who led the study.

Starting in the 1980's, it appeared that many African countries were on the onset of fertility decline. But in the 1990s and early 2000s, some sub-Saharan African countries saw a leveling-off of this decline. A few countries, such as Kenya and the Cote d'Ivoire, actually saw increasing fertility rates for some periods of time.

This leveling-off has led to revisions of population projections, and concern about the impacts of continued population growth in the region.

Previous research from IIASA's World Population Program and the affiliated Wittgenstein Centre for Global Human Capital has shown that women's education is a key factor linked to falling fertility rates.

"We were suspecting that the stalls could be linked to an education crisis some years back" " explains IIASA researcher Anne Goujon, a study coauthor who started exploring the topic descriptively some years ago.

The new study provides strong evidence to support that theory, as well as further support for policies that encourage and support education for women.

In the study, researchers reconstructed fertility histories by age and education level of the mother from 18 African countries both with and without fertility stalls. They pooled these data to create a dataset of more than two million births to some 670,000 women born between 1950 and 1995.

This painstaking reconstruction allowed the researchers a much more detailed view than previously available of what was happening in the populations.

"Our study was a cohort-wise analysis, meaning that we followed women by birth-year to understand their entire birth histories and the factors that contributed," says Kebede, "We found that cohorts who were affected by the educational discontinuities in the 1980s tend to have higher level of fertility. This is both due to the direct effect of education on fertility and the high vulnerability of the poorly educated cohorts to period specific shocks."

Wolfgang Lutz, IIASA World Population Program director and Wittgenstein Center founding director, says that the study marks and important step in understanding and projecting future population trends in Africa.

"Africa's future population growth is the key factor driving future world population. And not only will population growth affect the African continent, it will have major impacts on the rest of the world through migration and global environmental impacts," says Lutz.

Kebede E, Goujon A, Lutz W (2019) Stalls in Africa's fertility decline partly result from disruptions in female education. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1717288116

More info/Links

Policy Brief:

Related News:

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

Related Fertility Articles:

Vaping may harm fertility in young women
E-cigarette usage may impair fertility and pregnancy outcomes, according to a mouse study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.
Are fertility apps useful?
Researchers at EPFL and Stanford have carried out an analysis of the largest datasets from fertility awareness apps.
Marijuana and fertility: Five things to know
For patients who smoke marijuana and their physicians, 'Five things to know about ... marijuana and fertility' provides useful information for people who may want to conceive.
How could a changing climate affect human fertility?
Human adaptation to climate change may include changes in fertility, according to a new study by an international group of researchers.
Migrants face a trade-off between status and fertility
Researchers from the universities of Helsinki, Turku and Missouri as well as the Family Federation of Finland present the first results from a new, extraordinarily comprehensive population-wide dataset that details the lives of over 160,000 World War II evacuees in terms of integration.
More Fertility News and Fertility Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...