Volume 46 - Article 17 | Pages 503–546

Accuracy of wives' proxy reports of husbands' fertility preferences in sub-Saharan Africa

By Dana Sarnak, Stan Becker

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Date received:12 Apr 2021
Date published:23 Mar 2022
Word count:7841
Keywords:couples, Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), family planning, fertility, fertility desires, spousal relationships, sub-Saharan Africa
DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2022.46.17
 

Abstract

Background: Demographic researchers have recognized the importance of male partners in reproductive behavior and decision-making. Yet much of the existing literature still relies on female respondents reporting on behalf of their spouses.

Objective: The objective of this study is to estimate the accuracy of wives’ reports of husbands’ fertility preferences in 32 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: We used couple-level data from Demographic and Health Surveys to evaluate the accuracy of wives’ reports of their husbands’ fertility preferences in 32 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. We created a measure of accuracy based on each partner’s response to a set of fertility preference questions. We examined the overall percentages of wives who were accurate, inaccurate, or uncertain across countries.

Results: Despite the fact that most couples were concordant in wanting more children, we found variation in the percentages of wives who were accurate in their proxy reports, ranging from 26% in Chad to 58% in Rwanda. By contrast, percentages of wives who were inaccurate were similar; approximately one-third of wives across all countries gave proxy responses that were at odds with their husbands’ responses. Large percentages of wives were uncertain of their husbands’ fertility preferences, reaching 50% in Comoros.

Conclusions: These findings indicate low levels of spousal discussion of fertility preferences. We encourage survey organizations to invest in collecting data from males directly.

Contribution: By demonstrating that majorities of wives across countries either inaccurately perceive or are uncertain of their husband’s fertility preferences, the current study justifies collecting data from male partners directly.

Author's Affiliation

Dana Sarnak - Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States of America [Email]
Stan Becker - Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, United States of America [Email]

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