The World Fertility Survey: Current status and findings

 In 1979, 5 years following the initiation of the 1st World Fertility Survey (WFS) -- the largest social science research project ever undertaken -- data from the WFS are answering questions that policy makers and demographers have debated for the last 10 years.  By means of the WFS over 400,000 women of reproductive age in over 40 developing countries and 20 developed countries are providing information on their marriages, fertility, and contraceptive practice.  At the end of April 1979, 41 developing countries were participating in the WFS program, and another 3 countries were scheduled to join during 1979.  The WFS has developed a large set of materials to aid and guide countries in conducting their surveys.  These include the household schedule for the screening interview, the individual questionnaire, various modules which can be incorporated into the individual or household questionnaires, and manuals for national project directors and their staffs.  The primary function of the WFS headquarters professonal staff is to assist developing countries in carrying out and analyzing their fertility surveys.  Assistance is provided at all stages of the process.  1 of the primary objectives of this overview is to highlight findings from the first 15 published reports on the subjects of past and current fertility levels, preferences concerning fertility, age at marriage and marital stability, and knowledge, availability, and use of contraceptive methods.  These data are drawn from 9 countries in the Asia and Pacific region (Bangladesh, Fiji, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand), and from 6 Latin American countries (Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, and Peru).  4 conclusions stand out from among the findings: 1) fertility is declining at a dramatic rate in many of these countries;  2) age at marriage is increasing in some Asian countries but changing very little in Latin America;  3) about 1/2 of all married women of reproductive age want no more children, but about 1/2 of this group fail to use effective contraceptive methods;  and 4) over 80% of all married women in every country except Nepal have heard of contraception, but the percentage who have ever used contraception varies widely, from 10% in Pakistan to 82% in Costa Rica.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,Population Information Program