Low Fertility, Little Modern Contraception and Women’s Work: The Puzzle of Urban Africa

Allan G. Hill, Harvard University
Samuel Agyei-Mensah, University of Ghana
John K. Anarfi, University of Ghana

We now know that in several cities in tropical Africa, fertility is near replacement and at the same time, modern contraceptive use is uncommon. New data from Accra suggests that women are managing work and child-bearing with little disruption to their earning patterns and small costs for their health. This paper asks if this is part of a broader pattern in societies where most paid female labor is in the informal sector. Using cross-sectional and longitudinal survey data from the Women’s Health Study of Accra, the paper draws attention to several notable features of Accra society including the separate living arrangements of men and women but the strongly conjoint sense of responsibility for the costs of children. With matrilineal descent, men contribute to the support of their children even through resident elsewhere. The West African patterns are distinctive and quite different from those in southern Africa.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Fertility Intentions and Behavior