SEATTLE — Overpopulation and high fertility rates are often signs that poverty is a pressing issue in a country. According to recent data, the fertility rate in Kenya has dropped to the lowest in its region, a positive sign for the future of this East African country.
Data from the Population Reference Bureau has shown that for the past two years, Kenya’s fertility rate has shrunk to 3.9 children per woman. The fertility rate of a country is the average number of births per woman. Nearly a decade ago, in 2008, the average woman in Kenya was giving birth to five children.
The drop in fertility in Kenya is significant in itself, but this number also indicates that Kenya has the lowest fertility rate in its region, ahead of countries Burundi and Uganda, which have two of the highest fertility rates in East Africa. Although Kenya has a lower fertility rate than the rest of the continent, the fertility rate is still greater than the global average of 2.5 children.
Certain patterns of behavior have lead to this drop in fertility. According to childbirth expert Nelly Bosire, Kenyan women are achieving higher educational levels than before, which has led to “a shorter biological lifespan for having babies and increased contraceptive use” as more and more women pursue careers outside of the household.
Poverty, lack of educational opportunity, and poor health resources have contributed to overpopulation. Research has shown that as overpopulation and birthrates decrease, so does poverty. Kenyan women have seemingly taken note of this as they have heeded advice from the United Nations that smaller family sizes will lead to a more efficient allocation of family resources.
The recent drop in fertility is not the only good news for Kenya—the fertility rate in Kenya is expected to continue to decrease in coming years. In five years, it will be only half of what it is now, according to the latest Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. By 2020, Kenya’s fertility rate is expected to reach 2.3 children.
Research from Professor Agwanda Otieno suggests that Kenya has entered the second and third stages of the demographic transition. This means that for the past 37 years, Kenya’s birth and death rates have dropped significantly. The drop in fertility is necessary for Kenya to complete the second and third stages of transition.
While the fertility rate in Kenya has decreased, the population is still expected to continue its rapid growth. However, it is the working-age portion of the population that is expected to grow the most rapidly, which could have a positive impact on the Kenyan economy as more and more people enter the workforce. These population trends indicate positive change in the country’s future.
– Jennifer Faulkner