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Women's education and fertility transition in sub-Saharan Africa

David Shapiro, Pennsylvania State University

Sub-Saharan Africa was the last major part of the developing world to initiate fertility decline, and fertility in the region remains high compared to fertility in Asia and Latin America. Women’s education is correspondingly comparatively low in the region. Women’s education has long been known to be an important factor related to fertility via multiple pathways. Numerous studies have documented the importance of increasing women’s education as a key variable contributing to fertility decline in the developing world. This paper uses aggregated data to examine the role of increasing women’s educational attainment in the ongoing fertility transition in sub-Saharan Africa, in conjunction with other socioeconomic changes such as declining infant and child mortality and changes in economic well-being. In addition, detailed patterns of fertility differences by educational attainment are also examined across countries using individual-level data, highlighting the significant role in fertility transition of increasing secondary and higher education.

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Presented in Session 18: Status and patterns of African fertility transitions