The One God Sends to Save Me: Conflicted Fertility Preferences and Unmet Need among Burkina Faso’s Urban Poor

Clémentine Rossier, University of Geneva
Leigh G. Senderowicz, Université de Ouagadougou and Harvard University

In this paper, we ask whether low levels of contraceptive use among poor, urban Africans are due to enduring desires for large families, or to obstacles to family planning services. Using qualitative and quantitative data collected in the Ouagadougou Health and Demographic Surveillance System (Ouaga HDSS) between 2009 and 2012, we confirm that poor city dwellers have a lower use of contraception than the non-poor. We find that, in addition to being aware of the high costs of children, many disadvantaged city dwellers remain sensitive to the benefits of large families. These conflicted fertility preferences translate in the quantitative survey for the poor in relatively low desires to avoid a child in the next two years, contrasting with higher total numbers of child desired. Demand for contraception as conventionally measured seems overstated. While obstacles to family planning are numerous, a fragile motivation to overcome them is also at stake.

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Presented in Session 209: Fertility Transitions in Sub-Saharan Africa II