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the past few years about fertility and reproductive health in displaced populations. However, concepts, data collection methods, and analytical methods vary widely, as do the circumstances of humanitarian crises (used broadly here to cover war, population displacements, famine, natural disasters, etc.), making comparisons and generalizations difficult.

The purpose of this paper is to review what evidence there is concerning the effects of humanitarian crisis on fertility, with a view to identifying common patterns that may exist across settings and be of value in guiding responses to future crises. I will start by adapting a conceptual framework for this purpose and reviewing data collection strategies and analyses.


The intermediate variables framework provides an appropriate structure for examining the effects of population displacement on fertility. As proposed by Davis and Blake (1956), reproduction is determined by three necessary processes: intercourse, conception, and parturition. As the authors state it: “In analyzing cultural influences on fertility, one may well start with the factors directly connected with these three processes. Such factors would be those through which, and only through which, cultural conditions can affect fertility” (authors’ emphasis, p. 211).

Whereas Davis and Blake were interested in cultural factors, of interest here is the impact of humanitarian crises and population displacement, but the principle is the same: change in the intermediate variables is necessary and sufficient for fertility change, so any effect of crisis must work through one or more of these variables. Within each process, Davis and Blake identify the following variables (modified slightly for present purposes):

Process 1: Intercourse

  1. Formation and dissolution of unions: age at entry into sexual unions, permanent celibacy, and amount of reproductive time spent between or after unions as a result of divorce, separation, desertion, or widowhood.

  2. Exposure to intercourse within unions: voluntary abstinence, involuntary abstinence including temporary separations, and coital frequency.

  3. Exposure to intercourse outside unions: coercive sex, commercial sex.

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