Trends in Unwanted Fertility in Developing Countries

the Monday 15 May 2017 at l’Ined, salle Sauvy, de 11h30 à 12h30

Presented by John B. Casterline (Ohio State University, Institute for Population Research) ; Discussant : Gilles Pison (Muséum national d’histoire naturelle et Ined)

The distinction between unwanted and wanted fertility has long been fundamental for scholars and in the formulation of population policy.  From a policy standpoint, a primary goal of public investment in family planning services has been to reduce unwanted fertility, under the assumption that such births have costs for the child, the household, and the community.  I consider national-level trends in unwanted fertility in developing countries from the 1970s to the present, with inter-regional comparisons highlighted.  Three measures of unwanted fertility are examined:  the conventional unwanted total fertility rate, the conditional unwanted fertility rate (a rarely-used measure), and the percentage of births unwanted (a birth cohort measure).  Reflection on the analytical value of each measure is one component of this presentation.  I analyze survey data from 68 countries (292 surveys in total).  In most countries unwanted fertility rates have declined in recent decades, especially the conditional unwanted fertility rate, which has dropped sharply in all regions, most dramatically in Latin America and in Asia & North Africa.  This has been a major public health achievement of the past four decades that deserves to be more celebrated.  By contrast, the percentage of births unwanted has declined less and, indeed, has remained relatively stable or increased in many countries (especially in Sub-Saharan Africa).  A conclusion is that historical trends in unwanted fertility from a parental perspective and child perspective need not go hand-in-hand.  In many countries the burden of unwanted fertility for recent cohorts of children has not improved even while their parents have enjoyed success in avoiding unwanted births.

John B. Casterline

John B. Casterline is Robert T. Lazarus Professor in Population Studies at the Ohio State University and Director of the Institute for Population Research.  Casterline conducts research on fertility transition and reproductive behavior in low- and mid-income societies.  This has included projects on social diffusion models of fertility change, unmet need for family planning, and demographic transition in the Arab region.  He has led primary data collection projects in the Philippines, Pakistan, Egypt, and Ghana.  His current program of research has two major components:  (i) unintended fertility – measurement, causes, consequences; (ii) fertility decline in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Professor Casterline currently is a member of the Editorial Committee of Population and Development Review and is an Associate Editor of Demographic Research.  He is a past member of the Council of the IUSSP and of the Committee on Population of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.  Professor Casterline holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan (1980) and a BA from Yale College (1969, Phi Beta Kappa and Summa cum laude).