Trends in unwanted childbearing in the developing world

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Citation: Bongaarts, John (1997) Trends in unwanted childbearing in the developing world. Studies in Family Planning (RSS)

Tagged: uw-madison (RSS), wisconsin (RSS), sociology (RSS), demography (RSS), prelim (RSS), qual (RSS), WisconsinDemographyPrelimAugust2009 (RSS)


This study analyses the trends in unwanted fertility in 20 developing countries, based on data from the WFS (World Fertility Survey) and DHS. The author finds that wanted childbearing almost invariably declines as countries move through the fertility transition. However, the unwanted fertility has an inverted U shape. In other words, in the beginning of the fertility decline, unwanted fertility increases and it only decreases near the end of the transition. Bongaarts argues that the increase in unwanted childbearing is due to a decline in desired family size and the corresponding increase in exposure to the risk of having unwanted pregnancies. Women complete their childbearing at earlier ages, thus leaving increasing proportions of the potential childbearing years during which unwanted pregnancies can occur. The variation in unwanted fertility among countries is caused by variation in the degree of implementation of preferences, the effectiveness of contraceptive use, the rate of induced abortion, and other proximate determinants such as age at marriage, breastfeeding practices and frequency of sexual relations. Examples: % of Unwanted Pregnancies Peru 42%, Morocco 31% and Philippines and Dominican Republic 17%.