Why Ugandan women have many children
Every Ugandan woman on average produces 6 children. This is one of the highest fertility rates (number of children produced by each woman in a country) in the world. The fertility rate for most countries around the world is 2 to 3 children per woman. The reason fertility has reduced globally is reduction in the rate at which children die (child mortality).
This week, Robert Wilson, an English scientist developed some amazing infographics to show how the world has undergone demographic transition over the last 150 years.
That is, from a world of high fertility and high child mortality to low fertility with few children dying.
His infographics, based on data earlier developed and illustrated by Dr. Hans Rossling (the founder of gapminder), exquisitely summarised some of the key things demographers and economists struggle to explain to the world:
In all countries demographic transition was achieved when first child death reduced and then women started getting fewer children, in that order. This illustrated the essence of the demographic transition – stop kids from dying, women will have fewer kids.
However, in Uganda this logic has failed to manifest itself on the ground. Despite the marked reduction in child death in recent years, Ugandan women have continued to have many children.
For example, when the probability of kids dying in Uganda was over 50% in 1850s and 1920s, Ugandan women had 7 kids on average.
They continued having 7 kids even when the probability of their kids dying reduced to 20% around independence in 1960s. Where they were not yet sure about child survival?
Ugandan women have just reduced the number of kids to slightly about 6 (still one of the highest in the world) when the probability of their kids dying before they are 5 years reduced to less than 10% in 2010 – 2018.
At the same probability of a child dying before the age of 5 that is prevailing in Uganda, most countries have their women having 2 or three children.
Why is this still the case? Why do Ugandan women still have many children despite the drastic fall in children mortality by more than 40%?
Some people may attribute it to low levels of education and employment among women. However, it is not uncommon to find educated and employed women in Uganda still having as many as five or six children. Do they still fear that some of their kids might die? Almost all rich countries have women producing less than 3 kids, mainly 2, but what is clear is that the probability of a kid dying in those countries is almost zero.
This should help those who think high population growth rate is good for growth (thinking that it’s a source of market and cheap labour). Empirical research does not support their commonsense. All Uganda needs to do to develop is to reduce death of kids to zero. In addition, a policy for free and compulsory education for all women need be enacted and enforced, after which all the educated women should be given productive employment.
With zero probability of a child dying, educated and working women will stop having many kids and they spend their lives not rearing kids but making money, enjoying life, and developing their country. In other words, the only effective method of family planning is education and gainfully employing women and most importantly giving them practical assurance that their two kids they have will survive to adulthood.
No women can accept the gamble of having one kid or two when she has ever looked in the grave of her first born or that of her friend’s child.