The Incipient Fertility Transition and Women’s Labor Force Participation in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1991-2005: Evidence From the Demographic and Health Surveys

Fatou Jah


Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced an expansion of schooling, accompanied by delays in marriage and lower fertility. These trends stand to boost women’s employment prospects and foster further fertility decline through a variety of plausible mechanisms. But the evidence has been spotty. Building on the diversity of recent fertility changes within countries and taking advantage of repeat nationally representative and comparable DHS surveys, we attempt a large-scale historical analysis to provide an early assessment of the status of the transition in 21 countries. To evaluate the prospects for further declines in the region, we use multiple techniques to quantify the effect of fertility on employment as well as its contribution relative to other factors to observed changes in women’s employment within countries. Results show a growing negative relationship in some countries and no relationship in others.  Implications for the transition and inequality in the region are discussed. 


Incipient fertility transition; overall employment; skilled employment; sub-Saharan Africa; fertility employment regimes

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

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