Journal of Social Development in Africa

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Fertility decline in Malawi: An analysis of the proximate determinants

M Palamuleni


The paper examines trends in the proximate determinants of fertility (nuptiality or marriage, contraception and post-partum infecundability) in Malawi during the twelve-year period 1992-2004, with a view to explaining the factors responsible for fertility decline in the country. The study uses the Malawi Demographic and Health Surveys data sets of 1992, 2000 and 2004 and Bongaarts’ model of proximate determinants. The goal is to identify the important intermediate variables that are amenable to policy towards fertility reduction. Analysis of the data shows that there are increases in the absolute measures of all three determinants. The magnitude of change is greatest in contraceptive use, moderate in marriage, and least in duration of breast-feeding. Like similar studies conducted elsewhere in Africa, the study shows that postpartum infecundability has a far more dominant inhibiting effect on fertility than the other proximate fertility determinants. Specifically, the fertility suppressing effects of postpartum infecundability are more important than the effects of contraception and marriage patterns in explaining fertility levels and trends in the context of Malawi.

KEYWORDS: Nuptiality, contraception, post-partum infecundability, fertility decline, proximate determinants, Malawi.
AJOL African Journals Online