Ethnicity, religion and premarital fertility in sub-Saharan Africa

Julien Zwang, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and Université de Paris VI
Michel Garenne, Institut Pasteur

The study reviews the relationships of ethnicity and religion with premarital fertility, defined as the probability of having a birth before the first marriage. Data are drawn from DHS surveys in sub-Saharan Africa. Premarital fertility was found to vary from less than 1% to more than 70% in countries for which a DHS survey is available. Premarital fertility seems primarily defined by age at marriage and permissiveness of the society, both factors which are highly ethnic specific. The study compares demographic evidence gathered in the last part of the 20th century with ethnographic evidence gathered in the first half of the 20th century. A good congruence is found between the two types of evidence. Monotheist religions which spread all over Africa in the 20th century are also found to have had a significant impact on age at marriage and on premarital fertility.

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Presented in Session 222: Religion, culture and reproduction