Trends in Unwanted Fertility in Developing Countries

John B. Casterline, Ohio State University
Laila El-Zeini, Cairo University

This paper presents a comprehensive analysis of trends in unwanted fertility in developing countries from the 1970s to the present. The wanted vs. unwanted fertility distinction is meaningful for both theoretical and policy purposes: conclusions about causes of fertility decline hinge on the relative contribution of reductions in wanted vs. unwanted births, and public policy places priority on the reduction of unwanted fertility. This research examines three measures of unwanted fertility: percent births unwanted, unconditional unwanted fertility rate, and conditional unwanted fertility rate. The first two are common in the literature, although we calculate them using the Casterline – el-Zeini method that corrects for downward bias in the conventional estimates. The third is unconventional but brings into sharper focus success/failure in avoiding unwanted births. We present trends in 49 developing countries. In most countries unwanted fertility rates have fallen substantially in recent decades, a remarkable and unappreciated public health achievement.

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Presented in Session 142: Comparative Perspectives on Fertility and Sexual Behavior