Impact of Migration on Fertility and Abortion: Evidence from the Household and Welfare Study of Accra


Over the last few decades, total fertility rates, child morbidity and mortality rates have declined
in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most striking trends observed is the rapid rate of
urbanization, and the often remarkably large gaps in fertility between rural and urban areas.
While a large literature has highlighted the importance of migration and urbanization within
countries’ demographic transitions, relatively little is known regarding the impact of migration
on migrants’ reproductive health outcomes in general, and abortion in particular. In this paper,
we use detailed pregnancy and migration histories collected as part of the Household and
Welfare Study of Accra (HAWS) to examine the association between migration and pregnancy
outcomes among women residing in the urban slums of Accra, Ghana. We find that the
completed fertility patterns of lifetime Accra residents are remarkably similar to those of
residents who migrated. Our results suggest that recent migrants have an increased risk of
pregnancy, but not an increased risk of live birth in the first years post-move as compared to
those who had never moved. This gap seems to be largely explained by an increased risk of
miscarriage or abortion among recent migrants. The increased risk of pregnancy loss may be due
to a lack of social network, increased stress, and increased access to and knowledge on abortive
measures. Increasing access to contraceptives for recent migrants has the potential to reduce the
incidence of unwanted pregnancies, lower the prevalence of abortion and contribute to improved
maternal health outcomes.


Demography: Volume 51, Issue 6 (2014), Page 2229-2254

Publisher's Version

Keywords: migration, abortion, fertility, reproductive health
JEL codes: I18, J13, R23
Last updated on 12/04/2014