Rafalimanana, Hantamalala and Charles F. Westoff. 2001. Gap between Preferred and Actual Birth Intervals in sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Fertility and Child Health. DHS Analytical Studies No. 2. Calverton, Maryland, USA: ORC Macro.
Using Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data from 20 Sub-Saharan countries, this article compares women’s actual lengths of birth intervals to preferred lengths and assesses the implications of the difference for selected demographic and health indicators. The results show that women prefer much longer birth intervals than they actually have in Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Zimbabwe compared to the other 15 countries studied. As a consequence, the potential effects of spacing preferences on the level of fertility, as well as on the prevalences of short birth intervals and child malnutrition, are greatest in the same five countries. An explanation based on the observed sharp decline recently experienced by these five “forerunners” is offered for this pattern.