This report is a review of reproductive preferences in 56 developing countries conducted by DHS between 1990 and 2000. Several measures of preferences are used: the ideal number of children, the proportion of women who want no more children, the planning status of recent births, and the wanted total fertility rate. For 35 countries that have conducted more than one survey, trends in preferences have been documented. And, for a subset of mostly sub-Saharan African countries, men’s reproductive attitudes are also described.
In general, the number of children desired is declining in most Asian and Latin American countries. There is also evidence of
a desire for smaller families in southern and eastern Africa but little change in the preference for large families is evident in
western and middle Africa. Unwanted fertility is highest in the countries of northern Africa and western Asia as well as in Latin
America; unwanted births are still uncommon in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in western and middle Africa.
A comparison of wanted fertility rates with recent actual fertility shows a potential for further declines in fertility and impending replacement levels in many Asian and Latin American populations. Men’s reproductive preferences in Africa tend to be higher than those of women and are also higher in polygynous marriages. In every country studied, couples with the wife wanting to stop childbearing with husbands who want more children are more numerous than the opposite combination