The Influence of Changes in Religious Preference on Contraceptive Use and Fertility: A Longitudinal Study of the Kassena-Nankana of Northern Ghana

Henry V Doctor, Statistics South Africa
James F. Phillips, Columbia University
Evelyn Sakeah, Navrongo Health Research Centre

Religious preference is undergoing major changes in rural Sahelian Africa, with profound consequences for customs that are grounded in traditional belief systems. This study examines the influence of religious preference on contraceptive use and fertility among the Kassena-Nankana of Northern Ghana. Analysis of longitudinal data for women in 1995 and 2003 shows that 61 percent of women switched their religion with shifts from traditional religion to Christianity being dominant. Further, more women switched their religion than men. Regression results show that compared to non-switchers, switching from traditional religion to Christianity or Islam is associated with increased contraceptive use and decreased fertility. The fact that religious preferences are changing more rapidly among women than men may have social consequences for the status of women, signaling a trend toward greater autonomy in the family and new aspirations, values, and behaviour as evidenced by the proportion of people adopting contraceptives.

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Presented in Session 168: Religion, Contraception, and Fertility