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The Proximate Determinants of Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa

John Bongaarts, Odile Frank and Ron Lesthaeghe
Population and Development Review
Vol. 10, No. 3 (Sep., 1984), pp. 511-537
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/1973518
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1973518
Page Count: 27
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The Proximate Determinants of Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa
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Abstract

Although levels of fertility in most sub-Saharan Africa have not shown significant trends in the past few decades, substantial fertility differentials exist between countries and between regions and socioeconomic groups within countries. This paper examines the proximate determinants of fertility that are responsible for these variations in fertility. Particular attention is given to the biological and behavioral factors, such as postpartum abstinence, prolonged breastfeeding, and pathological sterility, which are crucial determinants of fertility in sub-Saharan Africa. Using a simple analytic model, the relative fertility-inhibiting effects of the proximate determinants are quantified, and from this analysis an assessment is made of prospects for future trends in fertility. It is concluded that rapid declines in fertility are unlikely to occur in the near future, partly because desired family size is very high and partly because upward pressure on fertility levels will result from the erosion of traditional childspacing practices of postpartum abstinence and prolonged breastfeeding or from declines in levels of pathological sterility in response to public health measures.

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