Apartheid's children: Social institutions and birth intervals during the South African fertility decline, 1960-1998
Previous research on the demography of South Africa has not resolved whether the South African fertility decline should be viewed as rapid given the institutional forces ranged against the everyday lives of African South Africans, or as slow, given the country's level of socio-economic development and the vigour with which successive governments implemented family planning programmes. The thesis presents a detailed demographic analysis of the South African fertility decline. By 1996, fertility
... By 1996, fertility among African women had fallen to 3.5 children per woman, not even half the level estimated for 1960. However, projected median birth intervals increased from around 30 months in 1970 to greater than 60 months by the late 1990s. Using official and historical sources, many of which are in Afrikaans, the thesis argues that the institutional context that prevailed under apartheid is responsible for the slow decline in African fertility and the increase in birth intervals. Birth intervals increased because African women used contraception for neither fertility limitation nor birth spacing as they are conventionally understood. This secular trend towards longer birth intervals is neither parity- nor cohort-specific. African women used modern contraception to postpone childbearing sine die as a result of the impositions of apartheid. Hence a third, new, pattern of contraceptive use is identified. The continued increase in birth intervals after the end of apartheid is not associated with changes in marriage patterns, or social instability caused by internal unrest. Birth intervals have increased most for educated, wealthier and urban women. Using the South African fertility decline as an example, the thesis argues that the institutional context in which a fertility decline occurs plays an important role in determining the pace of that decline.