Discussion Paper no. 02-04


Studying the dynamics of timing and spacing of births is important for several reasons including an understanding of completed family size as well as maternal and child mortality differentials. Using the 1998 DHS data, this paper examines whether there are intrinsic socio-cultural factors that affect the duration of birth intervals in Ghana. The results suggest that while most socio-cultural differences are mediated through socio-economic and demographic factors, there is the persistence of ethnic-specific norms and practices that affect the timing of births. At all durations, Ewes and Mole- Dagbanis were consistently found to have longer intervals between successive births than Akans. This has been explained through to ethnic differences in unobservable norms and observable practices such as lineage patterns, duration of the period of post-partum sexual abstinence and amenorrhoea. Besides the socio-economic and socio-cultural factors, other consistently significant covariates were age at first birth, birth cohorts and the survival status of the index. Age at first marriage was found to associate only with the timing of the first two children.