Shrinking Desired Family Size and Declining Child MortalityJune 4, 2010 By Dan AsinDesired Number of Children: 2000-2008, a report prepared by Charles Westoff of Princeton University for USAID, reviews family size preferences in 60 countries. Taking its data from a series of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), the report found that “the number of children desired is declining in most of the developing world.” The noted exception is western and middle sub-Saharan Africa where, in some countries, 6.0 children remains the desired number. The report found that desire for smaller family sizes, rather than a reduction of unwanted births, was the primary factor behind the declining Total Fertility Rates (TFR) exhibited in most of the countries studied. It noted that men’s preference is close to, but larger than, that of women, and that preference sizes were declining even among women without formal education. The report concluded that preferred family size broadly depended upon “child mortality, Muslim affiliation, women’s education and empowerment, and exposure to the mass media.”
In an article appearing in the latest The Lancet, researchers from University of Washington and University of Brisbane found that global child mortality has declined 35 percent since 1990, outpacing initial forecasts. Neonatal, Postneonatal, Childhood, and Under-5 Mortality for 187 Countries, 1970—2010: A Systematic Analysis of Progress Towards Millennium Development Goal 4 found that 31 developing countries are on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 and that in certain regions, including sub-Saharan Africa, declines in mortality are actually accelerating. The report concludes that the positive trends in child mortality “deserve attention and might need enhanced policy attention and resources.”
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