Investigating the Relationship between Food Insecurity and Fertility Preferences in Tanzania

Kira DiClemente, Kathryn Grace, Trace Kershaw, Elliott Bosco, Debbie Humphries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: We analyze fertility preferences among women at risk of pregnancy with children ages five or younger as a function of two food security metrics: perceptions of household hunger and child stunting (height for age z scores ≤ −2.0) in order to convey a robust picture of food insecurity. Methods: We use data from the 2016 Tanzania Demographic and Health Surveys to analyze this research question. Multinomial generalized logit models with cluster-adjusted standard errors are used to determine the association between different dimensions of food insecurity and individual-level fertility preferences. Results: On average, women who experience household hunger are 19% less likely to want more children compared to women who do not experience household hunger (AOR: 0.81, p = 0.02) when controlling for education, residence, maternal age, number of living children, and survey month. Adjusting for the same covariates, having at least one child ≤ 5 years old who is stunted is associated with 13% reduced odds of wanting more children compared to having no children stunted (AOR: 0.87, p = 0.06). Conclusions for Practice: In the context of a divided literature base, this research aligns with the previous work identifying a preference among women to delay or avoid pregnancy during times of food insecurity. The similarity in magnitude and direction of the association between food insecurity and fertility preferences across the two measures of food insecurity suggest a potential association between lived or perceived resource insecurity and fertility aspirations. Further research is needed in order to establish a mechanism through which food insecurity affects fertility preferences. Significance Statement: Individual fertility preferences are sensitive to dynamic multi-level factors in a woman’s life. While qualitative research has explored the effect that food insecurity and associated resource constraints have on fertility preferences, results are conflicting. Here, we quantitatively examine how individual woman’s fertility preferences associate with two measures of food insecurity and qualitatively compare the associations across food insecurity measures. We establish that two food insecurity measures- household hunger and child stunting- capture similar populations and have similar associations with fertility preferences. This is a critical step forward in understanding the dynamic relationship between resource availability, child well-being, and fertility preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-310
Number of pages9
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 13 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Child stunting
  • Fertility preferences
  • Food insecurity
  • Household hunger
  • Sub-saharan africa


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