Explaining Current Fertility Dynamics in Tropical Africa From an Anthropological Perspective: A Cross-Cultural Investigation

ArticleinCross-Cultural Research 50(3) · April 2016with 261 Reads 
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Abstract
Tropical Africa is known to be lagging far behind the rest of the world in its fertility transition. Many attempts have been made to specify the factors responsible for its resistance to fertility decline; however, no systemic explanation of the mechanisms sustaining its high fertility has been presented in cross-cultural perspective. In this article, we show how a set of anthropological factors provides both social and economic foundations for the preservation of high fertility in tropical Africa. Cross-cultural tests imply that the most important obstacles to tropical Africa’s fertility transition are (a) a high ideal family size, (b) a large potential to absorb increases in the female labor force participation rate without any substantial decreases in fertility due to ample child care readily available through extended family structures, (c) a large potential to increase fertility at the early stages of economic development through the abolition of postpartum sex taboos, and (d) a low potential for increases in birth spacing to contribute to fertility decline. In the last section, we discuss how the results obtained could be useful for policy recommendations aimed at accelerating the fertility decline in tropical Africa, and mitigating the forecasts of explosive population growth.

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  • ... Neighboring countries can be similar culturally, economically or politically, and also distant countries can have political and economic ties [48] and similarities in health status and social norms (e.g. [49]). Some countries may therefore form clusters of similar units, differing markedly from other clusters. ...
    ... For example, large desired family size characterizes Sub-Saharan Africa. Korotayev et al. [49] related this norm to polygyny, high status of polygynous men, extended families, and child fosterage within kinships. The latter two aspects enable females to carry out traditional hoe agriculture without reducing the number of children, contributing to high TFR. ...
    ... The latter two aspects enable females to carry out traditional hoe agriculture without reducing the number of children, contributing to high TFR. And in modern urban Africa, abolition of postpartum sex taboos reduces birth intervals and may contribute to high TFR when large desired family size persists [49,90,91]. ...
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  • ... This found socio-cultural explanations in the practice of polygyny in most regions in the country, and having a large family which is culturally symbolic as a proof of social standing [1]. There is also widespread child fosterage by extended families and provision of affordable childcare including community kindergartens [2,3]. The demand of work force for subsistence agriculture is yet another factor associated with high fertility in Nigeria [1,3,4]. ...
    ... Though we considered proximate fertility determinants such as postpartum infecundability and marital status for determining the study sample inclusion criteria, we further controlled for age at first cohabitation and the number and type of conjugal unions [19]. Since the desire for large family size is widely prevalent across Africa including Nigeria [2,4], we controlled for women's and their partner's fertility preferences. In addition, we adjusted for the duration of inter-birth intervals (IBIs) as proxy factor for potential biological effects. ...
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  • ... This means that their fertility rates are close to simple reproduction level or even below it, so not much natural increase is expected in these countries -indeed, for most of them certain population decline is projected by the United Nations' (2017a) medium population scenario for the period until 2050 and even more so in 2050-2100. On the other hand, the low-connected group largely consists of countries which got delayed in their demographic transitions and still possess persistently high fertility rates; this is particularly the case for almost all tropical African countries (see Korotayev, 2014a, 2014b;Zinkina, 2014, 2015;Korotayev et al., 2016b), many of which belong to this specific group. These countries possess very large cohorts of youths and children, thus having accumulated a colossal demographic inertia -indeed, even if demographic transition there accelerates immediately, population doubling in the next decades is pretty much unavoidable in these countries (Zinkina and Korotayev, 2014a;Korotayev and Zinkina, 2014). ...
  • ... access to contraception and acceptance of smaller family norms in patriarchal societies [3,4]. These projections also assume relatively low levels of international migration; historically, migration levels have proved even harder to predict than changes in fertility. ...
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  • ... Вот почему уже в процессе или в результате выхода из мальтузианской ловушки у социума резко повышается опасность попадания в ловушки нового типа -модернизационные. Ряду стран Тропической Африки еще вполне реально угрожает мальтузианская ловушка, особенно в связи с тем, что демографические прогнозы на XXI в. для них обещают многократный рост населения (см., например: Коротаев, Зинькина 2012;2013;Зинькина, Коротаев 2017;Korotayev, Zinkina 2014;2015;Korotayev et al. 2016;Zinkina, Korotayev 2014a;2014b). Модернизационные ловушки еще более распространены в современном мире, поэтому их анализ релевантен для прогнозирования рисков политической нестабильности в развивающихся странах. ...
  • ... Напротив, к группе с низким уровнем глобальной связности принадлежат многие страны (в основном речь идет о государствах Тропической Африки), вступившие в демографический переход с большим запозданием и сохраняющие высокие уровни рождаемости (в ряде государств -более 5 детей на женщину) [см. : Zinkina, Korotayev 2014;Korotayev, Zinkina 2015;Korotayev et al. 2016]. В этих странах чрезвычайно большую долю населения составляют дети и молодежь, а это означает накопление колоссальной демографической инерции; даже если рождаемость в этих странах снизится до уровня простого воспроизводства в ближайшие 10-15 лет (что крайне маловероятно), удвоение абсолютной численности населения в таких странах все равно окажется практически неизбежным [Zinkina, Korotayev 2014]. ...
  • ... During the final pre-collapse phases overpopulation leads to further decrease of per capita production, surplus production further decreases, and state revenues shrink, whereas the state needs more and more resources to control the growing, though at lower and lower rates, population. Eventually this leads to state breakdown and demographic collapse, after which a new demographic cycle begins-until the escape from the Malthusian Trap that was started by the advanced economies in Europe and North America in the early 19 th century, and that was followed by the overwhelming majority of the social systems afterwards-with a partial exception of Tropical Africa (see, e.g., Kögel, Prskawetz 2001;Zinkina, Korotayev 2014a;Korotayev, Zinkina 2015;Grinin, Korotayev 2015;Korotayev et al. 2016). What kind of territorial expansion/contraction pattern could be generated by such demographic-fiscal dynamics? ...
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    Polygyny is common in the ethnographic record. The vast majority of cultures known to anthropology allowed at least some men to have more than one wife simultaneously. This article compares various explanations of nonsororal polygyny, by far the most common type of polygyny. Multiple regression analyses of data for the societies in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample indicate that the two main independent cross-cultural predictors of appreciable (i.e., more than occasional) nonsororal polygyny are high male mortality in war (resulting in an excess of females) and high pathogen stress, which seems to favor nonsororal polygyny to maximize genetic variation and disease resistance in progeny. High male mortality in war predicts particularly in nonstate societies. High pathogen stress predicts particularly in more densely populated state societies.
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    A new set of codes is offered to begin to unpack the dimensions of polygyny. Included are measures of frequency and statistical dis-tributions of multiple wives, cultural rules, residential arrangements and kin relations among co-wives, male stratification, and marriage of captured women. Problems of coding and measurement are extensively illustrated. A series of hypotheses is supported regarding two types of polygyny: wealth-increasing and sororal. In the first, women's labor generates wealth and (if warfare allows) female captives are taken as secondary wives. Here polygyny stratifies males by wealth and most men are able to become polygynists with age. Residential autonomy of wives is an elaboration of this pattern. The second is marked by coresidence of husband and wives and dependence of the family mostly on resources generated by the husband. Here polygyny is usually dependent on the exceptional productivity of particular men such as hunters or shamans. The regional-historical adaptations of these types differ markedly. Neither fits the model of resource-defense polygyny found in other species. Explanations of polygyny, particularly of the first type, require close attention to resource and demographic flows within regional ecologies. The second type requires further functional and historical analysis. Both require more consideration of the way polygyny operates from the female point of view, a task only partially begun here.
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    A theory of the status of women is presented which draws primarily on ecological and economic factors and posits a relationship between female production and female status. It was hypothesized that female contribution to subsistence activities would be a function of certain ecological factors and/or a prolonged drain of male labor. It was found that these factors were related to female production activities. A scale of female status was then derived from a small pilot sample and correlated with female contribution to subsistence. The results indicated that female production is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the development of female status
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    This paper suggests why the intensification of agriculture is associated with a relative decline in women's participation in agriculture. The statistical evidence described here is consistent with the theory that women contribute relatively less to agriculture when it becomes intensive because their domestic work and fertility have increased. It is also argued that most men may be able to contribute more to agriculture in societies cultivating intensively because hunting, warfare, and trade are not so likely to pull them away from crop production [women's contribution to subsistence, agricultural intensification, time allocation, fertility, cross-cultural]
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    We discuss and test competing explanations for polygyny based on household economics, malecentered kin groups, warfare, and environmental characteristics. Data consist of codes for 142 societies from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, including new codes for polygyny and environmental characteristics. An explanatory model is tested for the worldwide sample using regression analysis, and then replicated with regional samples. We obtain convergent results with two different measures of polygyny, cultural rules for men's marriages and the percentage of women married polygynously. We conclude that the best predictors of polygyny are fraternal interest groups, warfare for capture of women, absence of constraints on expansion into new lands, and environmental quality and homogeneity.
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    Female agricultural contributions decline with agricultural intensification. We formulate and test a theory of the processes of agricultural intensification that explains a high proportion of the variance in female contributions to agriculture. Five variables show replicable effects across two or more regions of the world. These are number of dry months, importance of domesticated animals to subsistence, use of the plow, crop type, and population density. Of these, the first two are the most powerful predictors of female agricultural contributions, while population density has only very weak effects.
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    This paper examines possible ways in which female relationships can affect demographic outcomes within the context of an extended family structure in sub-Saharan Africa. The level of collaboration and competition that exists among coresident women is likely to have an impact on fertility through changes in birth spacing and stopping behavior. In addition, the extent of collaboration could be a contributing factor in the survival chances of infants and young children. Given the multitude of ethnic groups found on the African continent, the paper also addresses the independent and interactive roles of culture. The paper ends with a discussion of theoretical and methodological implications for demographic research and suggestions for further study.
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    The author studies variables that are usually regarded as the main causes of the decline of unilineal descent organization (statehood, class stratification and commercialization), along with a variable that has never been regarded as such a cause—deep Christianization. He finds that the traditionally accepted causes of the decline of unilineal descent organization are less significant ( = –.26 for the statehood; = –.18 for class stratification, and = –.23 for commercialization) than deep Christianization ( = = –.7). He also shows that the presence of unilineal descent groups correlates negatively with communal democracy and is especially strong for complex traditional societies ( = –.49; = –.84). Because the communal democracy correlates positively with the supracommunal one, the Christianization of Europe might have contributed to the development of modern democracy by helping to destroy unilineal descent organization in this region.
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    Early theories explaining the determinants of postmarital residence connected it with the sexual division of labor. However, to date, cross-cultural tests of this hypothesis using worldwide samples have failed to find any significant relationship between these two variables. The A.'s tests show that the female contribution to subsistence does correlate significantly with matrilocal residence in general; however, this correlation is masked by a general polygyny factor. Although an increase in the female contribution to subsistence tends to lead to matrilocal residence, it also tends simultaneously to lead to general non-sororal polygyny which effectively destroys matrilocality. If this polygyny factor is controlled (e. g., through a multiple regression model), division of labor turns out to be a significant predictor of postmarital residence. Thus, Murdock's hypotheses regarding the relationships between the sexual division of labor and postmarital residence were basically correct, though the actual relationships between those two groups of variables are more complicated than he expected.
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    Summary Although sexual abstinence has probably been the single most important factor in restricting human fertility, Western researchers have tended to regard it as a phenomenon mostly found outside marriage. The research reported here was carried out amongst the Yoruba, a sub Saharan people, among whom it is more desirable in terms of social stability to practise female sexual abstinence mainly within marriage, rather than outside it. A similar situation is found widely in tropical Africa. Data are reported from five surveys carried out in 1973-75 in the Changing African Family and Nigerian Family Projects. Three types of marital abstinence are shown to have an effect in reducing fertility: post-natal abstinence (often wrongly described as a 'taboo'), terminal abstinence, and abstinence at other times. Female sexual abstinence is not paralleled by an equal practice of male abstinence, and the main reason for abstinence is to preserve long birth intervals and periods of lactation in a society prone to high rates of infant malnutrition and mortality. It is shown that the Index of Proportions Married (I ( m )) is only one of a number of fertility-weighted indices which can be employed to sub-divide the female reproductive span, and that a complete series of indices adding to unity can be constructed. The duration of lactation and abstinence are found to be related but, because abstinence is traditionally of longer duration, lactation amenorrhoea is of little importance in containing fertility. Married women spend less than half their reproductive lives in periods when sexual relations are possible and marital abstinence is between three and four times more important than delayed marriage in restricting fertility. The period of abstinence is shown to be changing and it is probable that it has never been of an agreed length; the concept of 'natural fertility' is examined in this light. The partial substitution of contraception for the abstinence period is analysed, and the possible effect on fertility considered.
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    Research on fertility trends in Islamic northern Nigeria has rarely sought the perspectives of the people of that region concerning the causes of high fertility in the area. Relying on qualitative data elicited from women in northwestern Nigeria, we explore their views on high fertility in the region. A principal finding is that respondents ascribed to their husbands the responsibility for high parity; these women reported deliberately giving birth to many children in order to inhibit men's tendency to divorce or engage in plural marriage. We contend that the social meanings that women ascribe to their husbands' behaviors and the ways they respond to them are significant contributors to current high fertility in northern Nigeria.