Rural/urban fertility differentials in the Global South: Is female education the key driver of declining birth rates?

Adhikari, S., Lutz, W. ORCID:, & K.C., S. (2023). Rural/urban fertility differentials in the Global South: Is female education the key driver of declining birth rates? IIASA Working Paper. Laxenburg, Austria: WP-23-004

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Over the past few decades, fertility has decreased in all regions of low- and middle-income countries, except for the rural areas in a few sub-Saharan African countries where the fertility transition has not yet started. The study of differentials in these fertility declines, draws on two quite independent bodies of literature, one demonstrating the impact of women’s education on their reproductive choices and outcomes and the other focusing on rural/urban fertility differentials. Our research attempts to address both dimensions together and study their interactions. In particular, we investigate the hypothesis that rural/urban differences in the level of female education drive the apparent rural/urban differences in fertility and study how this pattern has changed over time. Using data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), we study the trends in education-specific fertility in rural and urban regions of 36 low- and middle-income countries with surveys at different times. We also estimate a multi-level model of children born over the last five years at the individual level, pooling all existing DHS surveys and processing over 3 million individual data records. We find consistently strong education effects on fertility, which in most countries are stronger than the effects of place of residence (rural/urban). But individual-level education differentials do not fully explain the rural/urban fertility differentials, thus suggesting an additional place-of-residence effect. The resulting patterns can be directly used in multi-dimensional population projections by age, sex, level of education, and urban/rural residence, as is currently being attempted for the SSP (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways) scenarios widely used in the global climate change research community. The results of this first comprehensive study of rural/urban versus educational fertility differentials not only confirm the key role of female education in fertility decline but also suggest further in-depth research on the diffusion processes and environmental conditions that drive the remaining rural/urban fertility differentials among women with the same level of education.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Fertility, rural, urban, fertility differentials, education, demographic and health surveys
Research Programs: Population and Just Societies (POPJUS)
Population and Just Societies (POPJUS) > Multidimensional Demographic Modeling (MDM)
Population and Just Societies (POPJUS) > Migration and Sustainable Development (MIG)
Population and Just Societies (POPJUS) > Social Cohesion, Health, and Wellbeing (SHAW)
Directorate (DIR)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2023 10:30
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2023 05:01

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