Climatic variability and changing reproductive goals in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sarah Eissler, Brian C. Thiede, Johann Strube

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Using 40 rounds of Demographic and Health Survey data from 18 sub-Saharan African countries, linked to high-resolution historical climate records, we analyze the relationship between climatic variability and fertility goals among reproductive-aged women. We find that, overall, women exposed to above-average temperatures report lower ideal family size and reduced probability of desiring a first or additional child. Results indicate that exposure to precipitation anomalies during the 12 months prior to the DHS survey is associated with a significant reduction in ideal family size, but longer 60-month spells of above-average precipitation are associated with increases in ideal family size. Effects of unusual precipitation are null for women's fertility preferences at both shorter- and longer-term periods. Additional analyses show that this association varies across sub-populations defined by parity, education, residence in rural or urban areas, and region. In general, our results suggest that women exposed to adverse environmental conditions—namely abnormally hot or dry spells—will reduce their ideal family size and their preferences for having another child. In some cases, however, fertility goals may also decline during spells of favorable environmental conditions, possibly due to increased labor demands among women and their spouses. One implication of the observed links between climate variability and reproductive goals is that policymakers concerned with climate adaptation should work to ensure women have access to the necessary family planning resources needed to realize dynamic reproductive goals in a changing climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101912
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
StatePublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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