Factors in the Persistence of High Fertility among the Yoruba: A Case Study of Two Local Government Areas of Oyo State.

Author: Raimi, Moses Olayiwola

Supervisor: Olusanya P. O.

Past and recent studies have found the level of fertility among the Yoruba to be very high and stable. Attempts to explain why this is so have, however, not been satisfactory. This study has therefore attempted to provide an answer to this problem using two Local Government Areas as a case study. The study reveals that the level of fertility in two local government is very high despite the fact that a significant proportion of the women interviewed ever used family planning methods and in fact, some were using these methods as of the time of the interview. The current fertility data cumulate to about 57 children per woman by age 49 and the retrospective fertility estimates cumulate to about 6.3 by age 50 We attempt to relate the fertility of the respondents to their socio-economic characteristics and we found that the average number of children ever born to women age 50 years and above is not less then 5 percent per woman in any of the groups excluding the probability that the number of children born alive have not been stated, especially by these old women who began child bearing thirty to thirty-five years before the survey. This indicates that the complete family size of Iwo local government women is probably more than 5 children per woman irrespective of their socio-economic status. Analysis of current fertility did not show any significant differences among groups. For instance, there was no significant difference between urban fertility (5.7 per woman) and rural fertility (5.6 per woman). We also found in the study that about 85 percent of women in parity still desired more children while about three fifths of women with 8 living children desired more children irrespective of their level of education. This study reveals that the combination of male dominance and the lack of communication between husband an wife on the issue of child-bearing have contributed significantly to the "large family ideal culture" of the population. Women in Iwo local government also referred to have many children because of the social and psychological satisfactions they derived from having many children. According to the women, children (especially male ones) perpetuate the family name. Extended family obligations and the belief that the basic function of the women is to bear as many children as are biologically possible are also factors revealed by this study as contributing significantly to the high fertility of the Yoruba. For example, women in Iwo local government area mentioned reasons other than economics for preferring large families. Such reasons frequently mentioned include: 'to honour me at death" (13.2 percent) "to inherit my property" (15.2 percent) "to continue my lineage" (15.6 percent) "to abide by the wish of extended family members (6.8 percent) "Children are good in themselves (9.6 percent) "It is the wish of God that everybody should have plenty of children" (6.6 percent). Overall, it is these well-integrated cultural norms about childbearing and their internalization from childhood that help to sustain high fertility among the Yoruba regardless of their socio-economic status. The persistence of these cultural norms will continue to sustain fertility at a high level.