Kenya Population – 2019














































This is a chart of age groups in five year increments. The figures in blue are the number of women during their fertile years. The number increases substantially from the older women through the younger women. Then look at the figures in red which are the number of children born in the last fifteen years. The number of children per 5-year age group declines. This indicates that even though there are more women of child-bearing age, they are having significantly fewer children. Replacement level is near.

My postings last week on the Demographic Transition in Kenya has resulted in a much greater response from readers than most of my posting. What is happening in Kenya is positive, but the demographic transition is coming very slowly to Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia. Rwanda may be an exception as a quicker demographic transition may be occurring there, but what is happening in Kenya is unique and so far not a model for other nearby countries.

Some people have asked for the reasons why this has occurred in Kenya. Naturally the reasons are complex. I can give you some ideas.

1a. More education for girls: While it is common to say, when girls receive more education, their fertility rate declines. I am not so sure. First in Uganda where women are becoming more educated, the fertility rate is going down very slowly. Also many primary and secondary school girls get pregnant. Tanzania has just announced a rule that girl students who have become pregnant must be expelled from school and not allowed to return.

1b. I think that the correlation between schooling and fertility rate is different. As all kids go to school – now in Kenya everyone is supposed to finish secondary school – except for weekends and holidays children are no longer a major source of labor for the family farm. Although schooling is “free”, the parents incur considerable expenses for uniform, books, supplies, fees that schools charge, and so on. I think parents realize that they can’t afford to provide for lots of kids who are going to school.

2. The HIV+ rate for women in Kenya is 5.2 percent. HIV+ women are advised not to become pregnant. While some may still give birth, I doubt that they will have large families.

3. Infertility: One of my readers commented that perhaps the modern lifestyle leads to higher infertility rates among women. The significant increase in the rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer in the current population is supporting evidence for this possibility.

4. End of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): Before the Europeans arrived, 75% of the Kenyan women were “cut” as they say here. The missionaries were horrified and opposed the practice for anyone who became a Christian. The Luo and Luhya (the tribe of most Kenyan Quakers) did not practice FGM. By about 2000 the number of circumcised women was down to something like 46%. Beginning in 2006, Kenya began a strong effort to stamp out the practice including making it illegal. Since girls were circumcised at about 14 and then were eligible for marriage, usually to a much older man, this would give rise to very large families. The rate is now supposed to be under 20% of all adult women and declining rapidly for the younger generation. Uncircumcised girls will marry much later which will reduce the number of children they will have.

5. Abortion: Except to save the life of the mother, abortion is illegal in Kenya. Nonetheless there are over 464,000 (2012 figure) abortions per year or an abortion ratio of 30 per 100 live births. Yearly 120,000 women receive care in health facilities for complications of induced abortion; Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi has a special ward just to serve women with botched abortions. At least 2,600 women per year die from abortions. Many others will become infertile.

6. The maternity mortality rate is still 510 per 100,000 live births, which totals 6,000 women per year. The US rate is 14 per 100,000 live births. I have gone to funerals of family members who died in childbirth. When a mother dies, or for any other reason the birth mother is not able to take care of her children and her children are adopted by other family members, the new “mother” will count these children as her own, which could skew the statistics by incorrectly increasing the fertility rate.

7. Infant mortality rate: The infant mortality rate is now 36.1 per 1,000 births, still high but nothing like the over 100 deaths in the 1960s. Research has shown that when the infant mortality rate declines so does the birth rate. There is a strong emphasis in Kenya now for women to give birth in hospitals and clinics. This will decrease the infant and maternal mortality rates.

8. New methods of birth control are important. At the Ntaseka Clinic in Burundi, almost 81 percent of the women chose contraceptive injection for their preferred method of birth control. Another two percent chose implants. These methods are popular because the women don’t have to tell their husbands/boyfriends that they are on birth control. The women themselves are therefore making the decision. The morning after pills is also important. I know of a young woman who was raped during a robbery and the hospital gave her the morning after pill.

9. Prevalence of Birth Control: While on the whole, birth control methods are available throughout the country, there are some parts of the country where they are scarce, difficult for young unmarried women to access, or out-of-stock at medical facilities. The latest information is that 61.6 percent of women of child-bearing age are using some method of birth control.

10.Media: TV and other media in their fashion sections show glamorous young women with no children depicted. They clearly show that having children is not the prevalent culture. Even the soap operas on TV watched by many women have very few children depicted in the family dramas.

11. Cell phones came into general use beginning in 2007. Now most Kenyans have a cell phone or access to a cell phone. This has opened up people’s horizons as they are no longer isolated in their home community. They are more cosmopolitan. This works against the former concept that the main purpose of a woman is to give birth.

12. In the last few years, smart phones have become quite common. While I am certain the moralists will be horrified by this thought, but anyone with access to a smart phone has access to pornography. I have now begun hearing preachers complain that the youth watch too much pornography. But pornography upends the concept that the purpose of sex is to procreate as it promotes the concept that sex itself should be pleasurable. This change in the attitude towards sexuality lowers the expectation that women should have lots of children.

13. Affluence: Unlike the other countries in the larger eastern Africa, Kenya is now considered a lower middle income country by the World Bank. I don’t think that money itself is a significant factor, but money provides the resources to buy TVs, smart phones, and print media which support many of the issues mentioned above.


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David Zarembka

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