Cleveland, David A. (1986) The Political Economy of Fertility Regulation: The Kusasi of Savanna West Africa (Ghana). In Culture and Reproduction: An Anthropological Critique of Demographic Transition Theory. W. Penn Handwerker, editor. Pp. 263-293. Boulder, Colorado: Westview.
The research was carried out in 1976-78 in Zorse, a village of about 2000 people living in compounds dispersed over an area of about 60 km2. A series of surveys with household members, including questions on migration, were conducted with a 50% random sample of households (about 140 households with 1000 residents), and the data on women's fertility were collected in a survey of women age 15 and older in the selected households (275 women interviewed). Using a model developed by Bongaarts, analysis of the data shows that in the period 1948-52 to 1973-77 TFR increased from 5.43 to 6.7 as a result of the following changes in two proximate determinants of fertility: proportion of married women (evidenced by age at first birth) decreased from 19.5 to 18.0, and postpartum abstinence from sexual intercourse decreased, as evidenced by a reduction in birth intervals from 43 to 39 months. Postpartum abstinence is the most important of these determinants. While this has been shown to prevail over a wide area of West and Central Africa, I show in this chapter how people consciously manipulate this institution in response to ecological, agricultural, social and demographic change in order to maximize the number of children surviving to adulthood by decreasing birth intervals. As child health improved (mortality rates for the 0-5 age group dropped from 30 to 20 in the period 1948-52 to 1973-77), couples could have children closer together without decreasing survival rates. Decreasing availability and productivity of farmland has led to higher demand for labor on the one hand, and increasing emigration (especially of young men) on the other (male migration rates per 100 increased from 37 to 76 in the period 1948-52 to 1973-77). High fertility is supported both by the need to recruit household labor, and the uncertainty about children remaining at home to support parents in their old age.
models of fertility developed by economists have thus far not incorporated
Caldwell's observation that children may yield parents a net economic
gain. Budget constraint lines have negative slopes because it has been
assumed that increasing income allows parents to indulge in children as
costly consumer goods. This leads to the further assumption that increasing
survival rates will lead to decreasing birth rates. In the Kusasi case,
however, children appear to produce more than they consume by about age
10, and increased survival rates would logically lead to an increase in
fertility. Demand for children can decrease only with a change in the
labor value of children. For the Kusasi, new farm technologies that increase
the productivity of labor, and new or reinforced social organization that
links households' short-term demand for labor with the long-term management
of community agricultural resources are the most plausible stimuli for
a transition to lower fertility.