An evaluation of the recent fertility changes in Afghanistan: a parity-specific analysis


Very limited studies exist on the demography of Afghanistan. Using the only national survey with complete birth history data, the 2010 Afghanistan Mortality Survey, this paper describes the recent fertility changes in the country from a parity-specific perspective. From 1995 to 2009, parity progression ratios, average birth intervals, sex ratio at birth by parity and synthetic lifetime average parity are successively examined. Results show that the progression to higher-order births started to decline in the early 2000s and was accompanied by childbearing postponement. The consistency of the parity analysis is assessed by looking at the sex ratio at birth by parity and comparing the synthetic lifetime average parity to fertility estimates computed from other datasets and/or estimation methods. While the sex ratio at birth indicates strong distortion, casting doubt on the ultimate fertility level, the consistency of the parity-based fertility estimates with other fertility estimates corroborates the fact that misreporting the sex of the child is mainly causing the imbalanced sex ratio at birth and is not significantly affecting the level of fertility. The SPPRs-based analysis provides solid evidence that Afghanistan is in the early stage of its fertility transition.

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  1. 1.

    The major surveys conducted in Afghanistan include the 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2010–2011 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), the 2006 Afghanistan Health Survey (HS), the 2003, 2005, and 2007–2008 National Risk and Vulnerabilities Assessment (NRVA), and the 2010 Afghanistan Mortality Survey (AMS). Not all these surveys have collected fertility data.

  2. 2.

    Indeed, applying the P/F ratio method indicates that fertility declined from 8.3 children per woman in the early-mid 1970s to about 6.6–6.9 children per woman in the mid-late 2000s. For the 1970s, the adjusted TFR results from the application of the P/F ratio method to the 1972–1973 Afghanistan Demographic Survey (Trussell and Brown 1979, pp. 141–144, Table 4) and the direct estimate from the 1979 census provided by Khalidi (1989, p. 14). For the 2000s, the adjusted TFR values were computed applying the P/F ratio method to the published data from the 2007–2008 NRVA and 2010 AMS (ICON Institute 2009, pp. 126–128; APHI et al. 2011, pp. 40–45).

  3. 3.

    The Central Statistics Organization (CSO) of Afghanistan provided only the sampling frame for the survey and was not directly involved in the data collection process. Of importance, given its limited involvement in the survey, the CSO does not accept the results of the 2010 AMS (personal communication, Mohammad Sami Nabi, Director, Field Operations and Sampling Department, CSO, 21 May 2012).

  4. 4.

    All computations were made applying the sample weights provided in the ‘individual record’ dataset.

  5. 5.

    The progressions to 10th, 11th and 12th and higher order births are available from the author upon request.

  6. 6.

    To compute birth intervals between each birth order, closed birth intervals for women delivering in a given year were considered.

  7. 7.

    The series of SPPRssim. can also ultimately serve to compute a simulated implied synthetic lifetime average parity (P sim.t ) that can be compared to the alternative fertility estimates derived from other survey datasets and/or from the application of another technique of fertility estimation (an issue that is not covered here).

  8. 8.

    For the 2010 AMS (ASFRs truncated) series, TFRs were computed applying the percentage distribution of the age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) observed in the three-year period before the survey to complete the truncated age-specific fertility rates of the last age group in the 0–4 year period before the survey and of the last two age groups in the 5–9 year period before the survey. The respective reference dates for these TFRs were centred at mid-period (i.e. 2.5 and 5 years preceding the survey for the first and second periods, respectively). The own-children estimates of fertility (for the 2010 AMS) were computed from the household micro data. The own-children method of fertility estimation is a reverse-survival technique for estimating age-specific fertility rates for a number of years preceding a census or household survey (Cho et al. 1986). The fertility estimates were computed using the household members list using the modules MATCHTAB and OWNCH3 in the EASWESPOP—Fertility Estimate Programs (East–West Center 1992). The fertility estimation was performed using the Coale-Demeny West Model, calibrated on the annual life expectancies at birth from the preliminary estimates of the World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision. In order to mirror the possible biases in the data (underenumeration, underreporting, misreporting) in the fertility estimates, I kept the underenumeration factors at 1 for both children and women. The estimates obtained from the reverse-survival method were computed from the 2007–2008 NRVA and 2010–2011 MICS single age and sex populations kindly made available from the Central Statistics Organisation in Afghanistan and published in Appendix D of the 2010–2011 MICS report (CSO and UNICEF 2012, pp. 180–183) respectively. The fertility estimation was performed using the Coale-Demeny West Model, calibrated on the annual life expectancies at birth from the preliminary estimates of the World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision and adapting for different mortality levels the spreadsheet given in Timæus and Moultrie (2012).


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Correspondence to Thomas Spoorenberg.

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Spoorenberg, T. An evaluation of the recent fertility changes in Afghanistan: a parity-specific analysis. J Pop Research 30, 133–149 (2013).

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  • Fertility
  • Parity
  • Data quality
  • Estimation
  • Afghanistan