The relationship between religion and fertility: the case of Bangladesh and Egypt

Elena Ambrosetti, Università di Roma - Unesco Chair on Population, Migrations and Development
Nahid Kamal, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

The paper explores the relationship between religion and fertility in Egypt and Bangladesh. The unique similarity that these two countries share is the fact that despite being pre-dominantly Muslim, strong family planning programmes were in place since the 1970s. The fertility decline in these countries over the last three decades has been facilitated by the population programmes which aided couples to revise their fertility aspirations in response to long-term socio-structural changes. Fertility has fallen rapidly among both Muslims and non-Muslims in these populations, in the absence of much apparent socio-economic development, especially in the case of Bangladesh. This paper examines in the first part the effect of religion along with other control variables on the two main proximate determinants of fertility, namely marriage and use of family planning in Bangladesh and Egypt. Linear, logistic and multi-nomial regressions were carried out using the 1993-94 and 1999-2000 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Surveys. The results suggest the effect of religion on age at marriage increased during the 1990s where as that on contraceptive use had fallen. Logistic regression were carried out also using 1988, 1992, 1995 Egypt Demographic and Health Surveys. Results show a weak effect of religion on fertility determinants. We will update those analyses using the latest Bangladesh and Egypt DHS data for 2005. Then, in the second part of our study following previous studies on religion and fertility, we will consider four main hypotheses: the characteristics one, the particularised theology hypothesis (Goldscheider, 1971), the religious institution hypothesis (McQuillan, 2004), and the interaction hypothesis (Chamie, 1981). This will allow us to show that the relationship between religion and fertility is in fact influenced by the political, economic and social context of the two countries.

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Presented in Session 19: Cultures of Family Formation and Development across Time and Space