orange publication summary banner small

Document Type
Analytical Studies
Charles F. Westoff, Office of Population Research Princeton University and Anne R. Cross ORC Macro Calverton, Maryland, USA
Publication Date
April 2006
Publication ID


Download this publication

Small PDF IconThe Stall in the Fertility Transition in Kenya (PDF, 1316K)
Order a Hard Copy: Please use electronic copies of DHS publications whenever possible. Hardcopies of publications are intended primarily for those in developing countries where internet connections are limited or unavailable.


A stall occurred in the decline of fertility in Kenya between 1998 and 2003. The fertility rate had been declining and contraceptive prevalence had been increasing for a quarter of a century. This unexpected interruption of an established trend is the fo-cus of this inquiry.

The stall or reversal of the fertility decline is seen throughout the country but is particularly evident among the least educated women while those with a secondary or higher education still show a modest decline in childbearing. The stall in contracep-tive prevalence is seen mainly among younger women and among those with less education. The use of oral contraceptives, the IUD, and sterilization declined over the preceding decade while the use of injectables increased.

A finding of particular interest is that while use of contraception among all women remained constant between 1998 and 2003, the expected increase did occur among sexually active women, regardless of marital status. There was a decline in the pro-portion of women who had sex in the four weeks preceding the survey. This trend has also been seen in other countries in southern and eastern Africa (but not in West Africa) and may be related to the higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS in that region.

Another factor underlying the stall in the increase in contraceptive prevalence and the decrease in fertility is the observed decline in the proportion of women who want no more children, a marked departure from the steady increase in this variable since 1977. This recent change is seen in urban and rural areas, in all provinces and ethnic groups, and among women with less than a secondary education. A similar change is seen among men.

HIV/AIDS may have a role in the reversal of reproductive preferences in Kenya because it has contributed to the increase in child mortality. Women who have ex-perienced the death of a young child are more likely than other women to want another child.

Although the analysis has identified the demographic dynamics of the stall in the fertility transition in Kenya, a full explanation is lacking. Shortages of contraceptive supplies have probably played some role but this does not explain the increase in the proportion of women who want more children.