The ‘Own Children’ Fertility Estimation Procedure: A Reappraisal

Christopher Avery, Travis St.Clair, Michael Levin, and Kenneth Hill
Population Studies, 67 (2013), pp. 171-183.

The Full Birth History has become the dominant source of estimates of fertility levels and trends for countries lacking complete birth registration. An alternative, the ‘Own Children’ method, derives fertility estimates from household age distributions, but is now rarely used, partly because of concerns about its accuracy. We compared the estimates from these two procedures by applying them to 56 recent Demographic and Health Surveys. On average, ‘Own Children’ estimates of recent total fertility rates are 3 per cent lower than birth-history estimates. Much of this difference stems from selection bias in the collection of birth histories: women with more children are more likely to be interviewed. We conclude that full birth histories overestimate total fertility, and that the ‘Own Children’ method gives estimates of total fertility that may better reflect overall national fertility. We recommend the routine application of the ‘Own Children’ method to census and household survey data to estimate fertility levels and trends.

Wagner Faculty