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Population Pressure, Social Change, Culture and Malawi's Pattern of Fertility Transition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 May 2014


Fertility rates in Malawi continue to be among the highest in the world, while mortality rates have declined significantly from 35 deaths per 1,000 population in 1965 to a low of 20 deaths per 1,000 people in 1995. This study will use crude birth rates and total fertility rates in examining the spatial context of fertility in Malawi. These are the most widely used measures for current fertility. The total fertility rate (TFR) stands for the average number of children in a family and is easy to calculate from age-specific birth rates. The TFR is a synthetic rate in that it does not measure the fertility of any real group of women but rather the fertility of an imaginary group of women who pass through their fictitious reproductive lives subject to the rates of child bearing experienced by real women in a given year. The crude birth rate, on the other hand, is calculated from the number of babies born in a given year (or any other time period) divided by the mid-year population, and is expressed as the number of births per 1000 population (Haupt and Kane 1991; McFalls 1991). The TFR for Malawi was estimated to be 7.6 in 1987 and the crude birth rate was 41 during the same year (National Statistical Office 1987a). Recent data from the Demographic and Health Survey indicate that the total fertility rate has declined slightly to a current level of 6.73 (National Statistical Office 1992).

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