Discussion Paper no. 02-03


This paper goes beyond the physiological impact of infant deaths on fertility by examining whether such deaths elicit an explicit, conscious and intentional fertility response in sub-Saharan Africa. The major research questions are: what are the long term implications of childhood mortality on reproductive behavior? Does the death of the first child, for instance, affect the risk of a higher order birth? These questions are examined using DHS data from Ghana and Kenya. At each parity, women with childhood mortality experience were found to have a higher number of subsequent than those without. Additionally, multivariate results suggest that infant deaths tend to have a long term impact on reproductive behaviour. The death of the first child in particular was found to associate with the risk of a higher order birth. This is probably because first births in most African cultures are deemed special and as such their death as infants has a long term effect on a woman’s reproductive behaviour. From a policy perspective, these finding suggest that improvement in child survival programs could significantly improve fertility through both the biological and behavioural effects.