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Targeting reductions in fertility remains a key development goal, as too-high fertility hampers the economic and health prosperity of low- and middle-income countries. However, critical to the success of gaining reductions in fertility is the ability to understand the factors that are shaping fertility, and to understand the factors that are acting to keep fertility levels high. To contribute to this understanding, this study applied the Bongaarts (2015) adjusted proximate determinants of fertility model to 33 low- and middle-income countries using data collected from the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) programme between 2000 and 2016. Results from the analysis indicate that there has been a universal decrease in the duration of breast-feeding and postpartum abstinence, which has contributed to stalling and increasing fertility rates in countries of Central Africa. In other regions of the world, such as Southern Africa, Latin America & Caribbean and Asia, increased contraceptive use and increased age at marriage, or sexual debut, has been able to offset this, leading to substantial decreases in fertility rates. These findings should serve as a guide to where additional development policy and programmatic attention should focus to reduce too-high fertility in resource-poor settings.
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