Fertility Patterns in Sub-Saharan Africa: Comparing Own-Children Method and Birth History Estimates

Michael Levin, Harvard University
Collins Opiyo, University of Pennsylvania

This study compares fertility estimates from birth histories and the own children technique using 50 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHSs) data sets for 25 Sub-Saharan African countries. The two methods are fundamentally different. The former focuses on women and their maternity histories while the latter uses children on the household roster. Birth histories – traditionally used by DHSs – bear certain inherent shortcomings that hinder full and accurate fertility accounting. The own children method is prone to distortions due to age misreporting, migration and child fosterage. The results show that, the differences in certain features of fertility notwithstanding, the two methods generally give comparable estimates. However, the greatest strength of the own children method remains its ability to provide un-truncated fertility trends. Nonetheless, the estimates will reflect distortions related to migration of women and children, particularly from adoption, which can be substantial in the wake of high HIV/AIDS prevalence in the sub-region.

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Presented in Session 5: Innovative Approaches to Demographic Data Collection and Methods