This study examines fertility trends for 30 sub-Saharan African countries with Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) between 1986 and 2006. The study uses women’s birth histories to construct panel data that enable calculation of fertility by mother’s birth cohort. The panel comprises women born between 1937 and 1990 and covers their fertility behavior between 1952 and 2005. The study’s focus on cohort trends in fertility distinguishes it from many other studies of fertility transition and enables examination of women’s fertility over their own lifetimes, rather than what fertility rates at a single point in time.
Over the past five decades, most countries studied show signs of fertility decline in the cohort measures examined. Comparing women born between 1950 and 1959 with those born between 1960 and 1969 reveals that 17 of the 30 countries studied show rates of fertility decline indicative of fertility transition. However, there is significant variation among countries in fertility levels and trends. This study also finds some “stalling” in fertility declines in a few countries, as decreases in fertility become less pronounced than in the past.