Has Uganda experienced any stalled fertility transitions? Reflecting on the last four decades (1973-2011).

27 Feb 2018

BACKGROUND: Persistent high fertility is associated with mother and child mortality. While most regions in the world have experienced declines in fertility rates, there are conflicting views as to whether Uganda has entered a period of fertility transition. There are limited data available that explicitly detail the fertility trends and patterns in Uganda over the last four decades, from 1973 to 2011. Total fertility rate (TFR) is number of live births that a woman would have throughout her reproductive years if she were subject to the prevailing age specific fertility patterns. The current TFR for Uganda stands at 6.2 children born per woman, which is one of the highest in the region. This study therefore sought to examine whether there has been a fertility stall in Uganda using all existing Demographic Health Survey data, to provide estimates for the current fertility levels and trends in Uganda, and finally to examine the demographic and socioeconomic factors responsible for fertility levels in Uganda. This is a secondary analysis of data from five consecutive Ugandan Demographic Health Surveys (UDHS); 1988/1989, 1995, 2000/2001, 2006 and 2011. Using pooled data to estimate for fertility levels, patterns and trends, we applied a recently developed fertility estimation approach. A Poisson regression model was also used to analyze fertility differentials over the study period. RESULTS: Over the studied period, fertility trends and levels fluctuated from highs of 8.8 to lows of 5.7, with no specific lag over the study period. These findings suggest Uganda is at the pre-transitional stage, with indications of imminent fertility rate reductions in forthcoming years. Marital status remained a strong predictor for number of children born, even after controlling for other variables. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests there is no evidence of a fertility stall in Uganda, but demonstrates an onset of fertility transition in the country. If this trend continues, Uganda will experience a low fertility rate in the future-a finding pertinent for policy makers, especially as the continent and the country focus on harnessing the demographic dividend.