Estimates of Adolescent Fertility in Developing Countries: An Innovative Use of DHS Birth Histories

Thomas W. Pullum , ICF International
Trevor N. Croft, Macro International Inc.
Kerry MacQuarrie, The DHS Program (Avenir Health)

Early childbearing, particularly before age 15, is risky for the health and survival of the mother and the child; it also negatively affects future well-being. There is great interest in levels and trends of early fertility. The Demographic and Health Surveys Program is a major source of fertility estimates after age 15, but because the minimum age of eligibility is 15, it may appear that DHS surveys cannot estimate fertility before age 15. This paper uses the birth histories for women age 15-19 to estimate the rate for age 10-14 during the three years and five years before the survey. Simulations show that the gain in precision from hypothetically lowering the minimum age of eligibility would usually be very small. Estimates of levels and trends in approximately 70 countries are included. Under-15 fertility is generally rare or occurs primarily at age 14. Potentially relevant biases in age reporting are discussed.

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 Presented in Session 10. Fertility, Family Planning, Sexual Behavior & Reproductive Health 2