Publications Summary

Document Type
Analytical Studies
Publication Topic(s)
Family Planning, Youth
Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Nepal, Philippines, Haiti
Recommended Citation
MacQuarrie, Kerry L. D. 2021. Young Women’s Empowerment and Fertility Intentions. DHS Analytical Studies No. 77. Rockville, Maryland, USA: ICF.
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Publication Date
July 2021
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Small IconYoung Women's Empowerment and Fertility Intentions (AS77) - Analysis Brief
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Fertility intentions among young women are important drivers of future fertility trends. Among adults, women’s empowerment has been linked to the ability to realize fertility intentions. This study examines associations between young women’s empowerment and fertility intentions using data on women age 15-49 from 10 Demographic and Health Surveys. One challenge to assessing empowerment among youth is that most measures of empowerment apply only to adults and, in the case of fertility, married adults. We developed a Youth Empowerment (YE) scale with six domains, suitable for use with youth regardless of marital or school status or age. This study first describes patterns of YE and two measures of fertility intentions: ideal number of children and use/intention to use contraception. We disaggregate by age group, marital status, and school status since both fertility intention outcomes and empowerment are likely to manifest differently across these groups. The study then uses multivariable regression analysis to assess the association between YE and fertility intentions, controlling for these and other factors. YE varies by country, measuring lowest in Mali (13% in the highly empowered tercile) and highest in the Philippines (81% in this tercile). YE is lowest among the youngest women (eight of ten countries) and currently married young women (all ten countries). YE is highest among never married women in five countries, but highest among formerly married women in the other five countries examined. Similarly, in five of the countries YE is highest among out-of-school youth, while it is highest among in-school youth in another four countries. We find a significant, negative bivariate association between young women’s empowerment and ideal number of children in all ten study countries, indicating that as women’s empowerment increases, ideal number of children decreases. This association remains significant with multivariable analysis in six countries. Young women’s empowerment is significantly positively associated with use of contraception and, among non-users, intention to use contraception in eight of ten countries. After controlling for other factors, these associations remain significant in five and eight countries, respectively. The largest differences are generally between the high YE and medium YE categories. These findings suggest the importance of programmatic and policy interventions that build and maintain young women’s empowerment, while also facilitating achievement of their fertility intentions.


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