Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version

January 1989


Published in Ethology and Sociobiology 10:1–3 (January 1989), pp. 145–169. Copyright © 1989 Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc. Used by permission.


There are many characteristics of contemporary African societies that puzzle demographers and others concerned with economic and social modernization. One of the most prominent is that the birth rate remains in both urban and rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa in spite of the presence of several factors that supposedly promote lowering of fertility (McNicoll 1980). Some of these factors are increased survivorship of children into adulthood, increased availability of education and levels of educational attainment (for both sexes), increased urbanization, and increased monetarization of the economy via migratory wage labor and cash cropping. Each of these is normally thought to promote the freeing of young people from the control of elders and to foster the development of economically independent nuclear families, close conjugal relations between spouses, and parenting practices with more intense investment in smaller numbers of higher quality children (Caldwell 1977a, 1977b, 1982; Caldwell and Okonjo 1968; Anker et al., eds. 1982; Sudarkasa 1977; Page and Lesthaeghe 1981; see Barkow and Burley [1980] and Vining [1986] for further biosocial consideration of demographic transition.)

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