Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Roderic Beaujot


Fertility levels in most urban areas of Ethiopia have declined substantially in the face of low level of socio-economic development. In contrast, rural fertility remains at high levels. This study examines people’s orientations towards reproduction, including the perceived benefits and associated costs of childbearing, and their attitudes concerning the changing reproductive behavior in urban areas. It also examines the extent to which demographic, proximate and socio-cultural factors can account for the urban-rural fertility differential. To achieve these objectives the study employed a combination of qualitative and quantitative research approaches. Qualitative data are obtained form fieldwork conducted in collaboration with a local non-profit organization. The methodology includes in-depth qualitative interviews and focus group discussions. It was observed that urban residents may not have a significantly different motivation as to why they would like to have children compared to other sub-populations. Children continue to have an immeasurable value for urban residents. However, urban residents have a reproductive goal that take into account reducing costs in the face of economic hardships and tailoring preferences to achieve upward Social mobility. Parents place emphasis on the wellbeing of a relatively smaller number of children and attaining a certain level of investment in their own human capital which are incompatible with large family size preferences. Respondents compared the childbearing experiences of their parents and their own generations. The reproduction model of the generation before them was based on the principle of “a child growing up according to its own destiny.” In terms of uncertainties and risks, this view is mostly concerned about child mortality. Lately, urban residents are adopting a new model of in reproduction that is justified in achieving a higher standard of living and enhancing the social mobility of their children. The ideal behind this alternative model is “neither too many nor too few children.” To this effect respondents approve the use of contraception and over half of them were users. Although the practice of induced abortion is prohibited by law in Ethiopia, four out of five respondents confirmed that the practice is common and some even reported to have had abortions. This suggests that the role of abortion in regulating fertility for urban areas cannot be discounted. However, the true extent of the induced abortion in the society remains unknown, and quantitative information is lacking. The quantitative analysis used data from the 2000 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey. Life table techniques were used to estimate the median ages at different parities and median durations between successive births, in urban and rural areas. A series of parametric hazard models were estimated to examine the effects of theoretically relevant demographic, proximate and socio-cultural covariates on the timing of births. Across all transitions, women who experienced child loss had faster transitions and therefore higher likelihood of subsequent births. Other covariates, such as union status, religion, and contraceptive use were also observed to have significant effect on the timing of births,"and to play a larger role in urban areas. A major implication from these findings is that improving child survivorship is an important moderating factor in high fertility conditions, particularly in rural areas. The results also indicate that future studies are needed to conduct separate analyses of marital and non-marital fertility and examine the extent of induced abortion in urban areas.



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