Adolescent fertility around the World

Leticia J. Marteleto, University of Texas at Austin
José Antonio Ortega, United Nations

The goal of this paper is to examine the current levels and recent trends of adolescent fertility around the world. The analysis is based on census and nationally representative fertility data from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s in 186 countries. The importance of examining the transition to parenthood in adolescence is that the well-being and quality of adolescents’ future lives depend largely on the events taking place during adolescence, particularly childbearing. At the macro level, the relevance of adolescent fertility is exacerbated by the unprecedented large sizes of cohorts of young people in the developing world. In our analysis we find that adolescent fertility has declined in many of the countries where it was particularly high, including most of Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, but it is still very high and there are countries where the rate has remained stable or has even increased. Similar heterogeneity can be found in the countries with intermediate adolescent fertility rates. Although declines in adolescent fertility prevail in regions like South-Eastern Asia, there are notable exceptions, particularly in Latin America and Western Asia. Those regions that had already low levels of adolescent fertility in the mid-1980s, like Europe or Eastern Asia, have generally experienced further declines. In the last part of the paper we correlate these trends in adolescent fertility with the trends in overall fertility rates throughout the world arriving at a typology of countries. Declines in adolescent fertility have not necessarily gone hand-in-hand with declines in overall fertility and there are different patterns of adolescent fertility change over the fertility transition. By bringing sexual initiation, marriage patterns, extra-marital childbearing and contraceptive prevalence into the picture we are able to understand how these different patterns emerge and interconnect.

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Presented in Session 83: Timing of Family Formation