The Potential Demographic Significance of Unmet Need

Charles F. Westoff and Akinrinola Bankole
International Family Planning Perspectives
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 16-20
Published by: Guttmacher Institute
DOI: 10.2307/2950797
Stable URL:
Page Count: 5
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The Potential Demographic Significance of Unmet Need


The controversial question of the potential fertility decline that would result from the satisfaction of the unmet need for contraception is of fundamental importance for population policy. Estimates of the amount and kinds of unmet need that could realistically be satisfied--based on Demographic and Health Survey data collected in 27 developing countries between 1990 and 1994--suggest that fertility could be expected to decline by an average of 17% in the 13 Sub-Saharan African countries included in the analysis and by 18% in the remaining 14 countries. These declines would represent an average of 30% of the distance to replacement fertility in the Sub-Saharan countries and would cover more than 50% of the distance to replacement in some other countries, indicating that the satisfaction of unmet need would have a significant demographic impact.