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TOPIC: Delayed marriage and fertility transition in Ghana



Stalls in fertility transition have been observed in many Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, including Ghana. This stalling fertility, defy the Demographic Transition Theory, and have attracted the research attention. Current studies seeking to unravel the causes of the stalling fertility have been inconclusive. Changes in the timing and prevalence of marriage are areas that call for attention because total fertility rate is a function of the age composition of the proportion ever married and never married as well as the fertility of the ever married and never married women. Therefore, a slight change in any of the components will most likely affect the total fertility rate. Ghana has been identified as a country with a relatively rapid decline in the proportion of women in marriage   but there is a limited understanding of how this changing trend has influenced the country’s fertility transition. This study attempts to examine how the changes in the prevalence of marriage is influencing Ghana’s fertility transition from 1988 to 2014. The study used data from the six rounds of the Ghana Demographic and Health Surveys conducted from 1988 to 2014. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the changes in the prevalence of marriage. The Singulate Mean Age at Marriage was further used to measure the average number of years spent in the single state by those who eventually marry. Fertility rates for the ever married as well as the never married were computed and analyzed for trends. Consequently, the change in TFR between 1988 and 2014 was decomposed into four components to identify their relative contribution to the overall change in TFR. Results show a decline in the prevalence of marriage as well as delays in the timing of first marriages. These changes were influenced by the changes in the socio-demographic conditions in the country such as, increased access to formal education, growth in urbanization as well as increased tolerance for premarital childbearing. The total fertility rate declined from 6.4 in 1988 to 4.2 in 2014. The pace of the decline was however, most rapid from 1988 to 1998 and stalled to a rate of about 4 from 2003 to 2014. Changes in TFR varied by marital status with a decline observed for the ever married. This is occurring alongside with the recent increases in the fertility of the never married women. Evidently, changes in the socio-demographic conditions of women were prominent in the changes in the marital and never married fertility. The decline in TFR of 2.21 between 1988 and 2014 was accounted for largely by changes in the age composition of the ever-married women. This was however, attenuated by a slight   increase in the TFR resulting from changes in the age composition of the never married women. The study concludes that changes in the proportions of ever-married women at various ages made greater contributions to the declining fertility in Ghana than changes in marital fertility. That notwithstanding, the increasing proportion of never-married women and the increase in never married fertility offset the pace of fertility decline in Ghana. The increasing proportion of the never married, emanating from delayed marriages, could be a threat to any effort to reduce fertility in Ghana. Therefore, it is recommended that the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Education and its agencies, intensify the implementation of policies that seek to expand access to formal education for all females. This will keep more girls in school for longer periods and eventually delay the timing of marriage and parenthood.