Women’s Agency and Fertility: Recent Evidence from Egypt
Fertility reached a two decade high of 3.5 births per woman in Egypt in 2014. Lower status of women is associated with higher fertility. Majority of the studies on women’s agency and fertility rely on individual-level cross-sectional data from South Asia, which limits the understanding of variation among communities and the direction of the relationship between women’s agency and fertility in other global contexts. This study examines the relationship between women’s agency and fertility longitudinally and among communities in the most populous country in the Middle East-Egypt. For 3795 ever married women 15–49 years old in the 2006 and 2012 Egyptian Labor Market Panel Survey, multilevel models are estimated for having given birth and number of births between 2006 and 2012. Contrary to expectation, women with more agency with greater participation in household decision-making and mobility are, in fact, more likely to have had a birth and have a greater total number of births. Only women with more egalitarian attitudes are associated with fewer births. Community membership explains 5% of the variation in fertility. Since social norms in Egypt favor a higher number of births and labor market participation among women is low, women with agency could be fulfilling social expectations of having children and choosing to have more children.