Marriage and first birth intervals in early and late marrying societies: An exploration of determinants
Presentation at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting, 1 April
Publication date: 2011
This paper explores the potential explanations of the varying lengths of first-birth intervals observed between early- and late-marrying regimes in developing countries. We propose that underlying biological mechanisms related to the fecundity of girls at the time of marriage govern first-birth intervals and shape the social norms surrounding childbearing. We use multicountry data from the Demographic and Health Surveys and estimate multilevel models to explore both biological and social norm-related mechanisms that determine the timing of first birth in different marriage regimes. We hypothesize that longer birth intervals in early marrying societies are a result of the subfecundity of girls when they enter unions. In late-marrying regimes, girls marry at their most fecund periods and are impatient to establish fertility, resulting in shorter birth intervals. Policy implications of these considerations that suggest distinct emphasis in the promotion of contraception in different marriage regimes are discussed further.