Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Changes in Women's Status and Fertility Behaviour in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ssa): A Decomposition Analysis

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Changes in Women's Status and Fertility Behaviour in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ssa): A Decomposition Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction/Background

It is well documented that sub-Saharan Africa remains the only region that is yet to experience substantial fertility decline compared with the other developing regions of the world (Bongaarts & Casterline, 2013; Shapiro, 2012). Although fertility transition has started in the region, studies have shown that the transition is stalling in some of the countries at the fore-front of the transition (Bongaarts, 2008; Garenne, 2010; Shapiro & Gebreselassie, 2008; Shapiro, Kreider, Varner, & Sinha, 2013). In a patriarchal setting like most SSA countries, women are often accorded an inferior role or a lower status compared to that of men, which often make them voiceless in family issues including fertility decisions; and societal affairs in general. Women's subordinate role compared to that of men is one of the several factors responsible for the slow pace of fertility transition in the region (J. C. Caldwell, Orubuloye, & Caldwell, 1992). According to Basu (2002), women's status is one of two major factors responsible for fertility decline both at the individual and the community level. The history of women's status in the traditional African society is such that is adjudged by the number of children, especially the number of sons that a woman has (Michelle J. Hindin, 2000; Isiugo-Abanihe, 1994).

Despite the existing arguments about the meaning and measures of women's status, the concept remains an important determinant of fertility levels and trends across different cultures and societies (Akhter, 2014; Muhammad & Fernando, 2010). Women's socio-economic characteristics like the level of education attained, literacy level and employment among others, have been examined to better understand the meaning of women's status (Kishor & Subaiya, 2008; Sathar, Crook, Callum, & Kazi, 1988).Studies have shown that women's status is changing across the world's social, political and economic spheres (Akhter, 2014; Hepburn & Simon, 2006; York & Ergas, 2015), yet little is known about changing women's status in sub-Saharan Africa and its influence on fertility in the region. Akhter (2014) in a cross-national analysis of women's status and fertility differentials in the world system found that nations with higher social globalization, positive attitude towards women empowerment and more women's participation in the formal sector tend to have more women with high status, which ultimately results to lower fertility. A similar study by York and Ergas (2015) in their exploration of women's status and the world system found strong association between women's status, world-system position and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Their findings suggested that increased women's status which results from increased gender equality results not only to a nation's less dependence on the global economy, but also to reduced total fertility and infant mortality rates. Likewise, Hepburn and Simon (2006) in comparing 26 developed and developing countries found women's increasing feature in the political setting, increasing participation in formal employments and increasing high school enrolment rates, which factors have significantly contributed to increasing women's status across the continents of the world.

The determinants of changes in fertility levels are similar to those influencing women's status. According to Kritz and Gurak (1989), the strong relationship between education and fertility has made it an important factor in explaining changes in fertility levels across different countries of the world. Studies relating women's educational attainment to fertility in the developed countries of the world show similar results to such studies in other developing areas (Bratti, 2003; Feyrer, Sacerdote, & Stern, 2008a, 2008b; Klasen & Launov, 2006). For example, Martin (1995) examined the relationship between education and fertility using the DHS data for 26 developing countries. Findings from the study confirmed an inverse relationship between education and fertility across the countries examined. …

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