Examining the effect of changing marriage patterns on fertility among African South African women.
Magagula, Thandi Kuki.
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Recent studies on marriage patterns in South Africa have revealed a clear trend towards decreasing proportions of married women and an increase in age at first marriage (Udjo, 2001; Budlender et al., 2004). Despite marriage being one of the most important proximate determinants of fertility, the role of these nuptiality changes on the country’s decreasing fertility levels has not been adequately explored. Using data from the 1998 South African Demographic Survey, this paper fills this research gap by examining the marriage and fertility trends among African women in South Africa. The decision to focus on African women hinged on two basic factors; (1) available evidence shows that changes in marriage patterns are most notable in this racial group, and (2) African women have the highest fertility level relative to other racial groups. The results show that marriage patterns have been changing over time. The proportions married are low and late among African and rural women. There is an increase in the proportion of women who are cohabiting and never-married. Fertility levels are different for marital status, with the married and widowed women having the highest mean number of children ever born and the least number of children ever born is among the never-married women. Furthermore, the mean number of children ever born is among the highest in the older ages for all women. Kaplan-Meier estimates indicate that half of the divorced and widowed women have their first birth as early as age 18 years, compared to age 20 for the never-married and the cohabiting women, and age 22 for the married women. The mean age at first birth for African women is 19.7 years compared to 21.2 years for non-African women. Overall, socio-economic and demographic factors such as educational attainment, place of residence, marital status, race, and age have a significant effect on the age of a woman at first birth.