Publications Summary

Document Type
Analytical Studies
Publication Topic(s)
Fertility and Fertility Preferences, Wealth/Socioeconomics
Recommended Citation
Assaf, Shireen, and Lwendo Moonzwe Davis. 2020. Comparing Ideal and Completed Family Size: A Focus on Women in Low- and Middle-income Countries with Unrealized Fertility. DHS Analytical Studies No. 78. Rockville, Maryland, USA: ICF.
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Publication Date
July 2021
Publication ID

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The study of fertility preferences in relation to the number of children is important for understanding the factors that contribute to fertility levels. There has been little research on women who have fewer than their ideal number of children, or unrealized fertility, in low- and middle- income countries. This report focuses on women age 40-49 in 25 countries from the four geographical regions of Western and Central Africa, Eastern Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The report examines trends in fertility preferences, the distribution of unwanted fertility and unrealized fertility, and the factors associated with unrealized fertility. There were some significant increases in fertility preferences, especially in the African regions, although these were of very small magnitude. Unrealized fertility was the highest in Western and Central Africa, followed by Eastern Africa, and the remaining two regions. We find that having fewer than four children in the African regions and fewer than two children in the remaining two regions increases the likelihood of unrealized fertility. We also find little evidence of sex preferences after reaching a specific ideal number. We explored the relationship between unrealized fertility and other covariates such as education, wealth quintile, and contraceptive use. Some country-specific deviations from the regional results are also discussed.


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