Volume 41 - Article 46 | Pages 1289–1314  

Forty years of fertility changes in the Sahel

By Thomas Spoorenberg


Background: Despite much discussion on the fertility changes in sub-Saharan Africa, the countries of the Sahel have received only limited attention. Their comparatively high and stable fertility levels contributed them being labeled as an exception in sub-Saharan Africa.

Objective: This study investigates whether countries of the Sahel are an exception in the crosscontinental trend of increasing birth intervals since the 1970s in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: Using birth history data, the levels and trends in parity progression ratios and birth intervals are reconstructed for four decades in four countries of the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger).

Results: In all four countries, parity progression ratios have changed little, but births have been occurring later and the age at which an average woman is bearing her seventh child has increased.

Conclusions: While the lengthening of birth intervals has been associated with lower fertility in many analyses, this study shows that a similar process is found in countries with high and stable total fertility rates.

Contribution: This study contributes to revise some commonly accepted views on the fertility dynamics in the Sahel.

Author's Affiliation

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