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Despite decades of policies and international efforts aimed at reducing fertility in sub-Saharan Africa, the total fertility rate remains above five births per woman in most countries. Prior studies of fertility decline in the region have mostly focused on the role played by high child mortality, contraceptive use, educational attainment, and socioeconomic development, among other factors. We examine the hypothesis that high levels of divorce and remarriage are a previously unidentified influence on the pace of fertility decline in the region. We hypothesize that new unions create a demand for new births to the couple, independent of prior fertility. In this paper, we will first use 25 years of data from the Demographic and Health Surveys in sub-Saharan Africa to examine how changes in the prevalence of divorce and remarriage are associated with changes in the total fertility rate at the sub-national level. In the second half of our analysis, we will use 14 years of observation from the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health to examine whether women who recently entered a new union are more likely to have a birth than women in ongoing partnerships.
Monica Grant is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include the demographic consequences of schooling expansion, gender differences in the transition to adulthood, and family change in sub-Saharan Africa. For the past decade, Monica has collected longitudinal data in Malawi. These projects have been funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes for Child Health and Development and the Spencer Foundation. She has recently published articles in Demography, Population Development Review, and Social Forces.
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