Polygyny and Fertility in Rural Senegal

Factors of Fertility Change in Africa
By Solène Lardoux, Etienne Van de Walle


The aim of this study is to look at some determinants of fertility differences between monogamous and polygynous wives of ranks 1 to 3 or higher in two rural regions of Senegal. The measure of fertility is a dichotomous variable that refers to the occurrence of a birth during the 12 months prior to the census date. The analysis of cross-sectional data for the rural Tambacounda and Kolda regions from the 1988 Senegal census allowed us to test our hypotheses and to find the following results: first, the fertility of each wife decreases with the number of wives in the union; second, the wife of highest rank is more likely to have given birth in the previous year than her co-wives; as for the age of the husband, it appears to have a stronger effect for monogamists than for polygynists, for whom it is substantial only after 60; childbearing by one wife during the previous year increases the probability of a birth to a co-wife; finally, the presence of a first wife past the age of childbearing has no effect on the fertility of her co-wives.

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