Dynamics of marriage and infertility in South Africa An analysis of census data

  • Michel Garenne UMI Résiliences, Bondy
Keywords: Infertility, Childlessness, Marriage, Common-law union, Celibacy, Population group (race), Ethnicity, Cultural factors, Socio-economic factors, Longitudinal analysis, Census, IPUMS, South Africa


The study presents an analysis of long-term trends in terminal celibacy and primary infertility in South Africa. Sources of data were four population censuses conducted in 1996, 2001, 2007 and 2011, which cover cohorts of women born between 1900 and 1971 (women age 40 years and above at time of census). Terminal celibacy was defined as not being married, widowed or divorced at time of census. Primary infertility was defined as not having had any live birth at time of census. Results showed complex dynamics of both infertility and celibacy. Infertility first declined for cohorts born before 1940 then increased. Celibacy first declined for cohorts born before 1920, then increased. All dynamics varied by population group, by ethnic group, by area of residence, by province of residence, and by level of education. A multivariate analysis indicated that being never-married was the most important factor of infertility, explaining about half of cases. Dynamics of marriage and infertility are discussed in light of the complex population history of the country in the 20th century. Cultural factors appear critical for explaining levels and trends of celibacy and infertility, far above any socio-economic factor. 


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Author Biography

Michel Garenne, UMI Résiliences, Bondy
Institute de Recherche pour le Developpement (IRD)1Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), 15