Record high fertility in sub-Saharan Africa in a comparative perspective

Michel Garenne


The study documents cases of extremely high fertility in sub-Saharan Africa. The DHS surveys were used for the analysis, with straightforward calculations of period and cohort fertility. Two case studies were further analysed: Kenya (1965-69) and Niger (1982-86). In both cases, total fertility in rural areas reached 9 children per woman, as high as among the Hutterites of North-America (1921-1940). However, the complete family size never exceeded 8.0 children per woman in Kenya (cohorts 1939-1946) and 8.2 children per woman in Niger (cohorts 1960-1967). Compared with the Hutterites, in both African countries the age pattern of fertility was earlier and with a lower mode, age at marriage was earlier, birth intervals were longer because of long breastfeeding, and secondary infertility was more frequent after the 5th birth. Other proximate determinants of fertility appeared similar in the three populations, with the probable exception of health and nutritional status. Implications for modelling are discussed.


Natural fertility; Maximum fertility; Proximate determinants; Nuptiality; Primary infertility; Secondary infertility; Breastfeeding; Kenya; Niger; Hutterites; sub-Saharan Africa

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

ISSN 2308-7854 (online); ISSN 0850-5780 (print)

Powered by OJS and hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2013.


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help