Childlessness and Human Development in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1986–2016

Florianne Verkroost , Nuffield College, University of Oxford
Christiaan W. S. Monden, University of Oxford

Women increasingly remain childless. Human development firstly brings improved healthcare, reducing infertility and involuntary childlessness, followed by (female) educational/occupational attainment, increasing female voluntary childlessness and male circumstantial childlessness through selection out of relationships. Literature on Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), having developed in education, wealth and health, focuses on infertility, although other reasons for childlessness exist. Further, most childlessness research ignores men and gender differences. We examine whether the association between childlessness and human development is U-shaped; how this association differs across involuntary, voluntary and circumstantial childlessness; and what gender differences exist herein. Using Demographic Health Surveys (1986-2016) throughout 33 SSA countries, we estimate region-country hierarchical models for women and men aged 40+. We find a U-shaped relationship between childlessness and human development particularly among women. Human development relates inversely to particularly female involuntary childlessness and positively to particularly male voluntary and circumstantial childlessness. We discuss and provide evidence for possible mechanisms.

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