Rwanda: the densest nation in Africa
Though the physical size of Rwanda is similar to that of Maryland, at roughly 10,000 square miles, the population is double at nearly 12 million people.
This high density impacts economic development and environmental sustainability.
To understand how today's population-based pressures may be exacerbated in the future, we analyzed current drivers of population growth.
Total Fertility Rate has declined, but appears to be leveling off
Rwanda has experienced significant declines in total fertility rate (TFR) – an estimate of the total number of children a woman will have in her lifetime.
Compared to its neighbor Uganda, the most recent TFR is much lower: 4.2 children/woman, similar to Kenya.
However, despite progress in reducing population growth, the estimated fertility rate has changed little from 2010 to 2015. What are the trends and contributing factors in family planning decisions?
Just as fertility rates are slowing, so is uptake of modern contraception use
Rwanda has made significant gains in modern contraception use in the past decade.
In 2005, only 10% of women who were married or in a union used modern contraception.
Today, that number is closer to half of all women, but the rate of uptake has slowed recently.
Do demographics help explain this stagnation?
Analyzing fertility factors
Since high fertility rates may be explained by access to contraception to limit or space pregnancies, by social desires for more children, or both, we analyzed the 2010 and the 2014/2015 Demographic and Health Surveys in an attempt to tease apart patterns that contribute to steady TFR rates.
Why are married Protestant women less likely than Catholics to report using modern contraception?
Comparing modern contraception use among major religious groups, the data suggest that Protestant married women report much lower use.
To account for other factors that may explain this difference, we turned to logistic regressions.
After taking into account factors such as age, education, wealth, and geography, we found:
  • Protestant married women are less likely than Catholic women to use modern contraception.
  • Protestant married women are more likely than Catholic women to want larger families.
  • In 2014/2015, Protestant married women had more children than Catholic women.
What are the consequences a lower modern contraception use rate in Protestants?
Even though the difference in use between Protestants and Catholics seems small, there appear to be dramatic consequences of lower use.
According to the official Rwandan census, the overall share of Protestants has changed dramatically over the past decade, rising from 27% in 2002 to 38% in 2012.
This change in proportion translates into a near doubling of the Protestant population.
The Protestant population is growing 4.5 times faster than Catholics
Though the population of the country grew from about 8 million people in 2002 to 10.5 million in 2012, most of the growth came from the expansion of Protestants.
Comparing Catholics to Protestants in 2012, we see a near doubling of the Protestant population, and only a slight increase in the Catholic one.
Are there differences between the age profiles of the two groups?
Aging Catholic population, growing Protestant youth base
Breaking the total population into age cohorts, the Protestants have a large share of their population under 10.
Conversely, Catholics have an aging population, relative to the Protestants.
What does this mean for mission investments?
If spatial patterns exist among different religious populations, then engagement of faith-based organizations may be better guided by understanding where in Rwanda such patterns exist. Moreover, spatial patterns may also translate into differential access rates for family planning resources.
Analyzing the 2012 census at the sector level, a higher proportion of the Catholic population is located in the central portion of the country, while the Protestants are concentrated in the east and west.
Is there unequal access to healthcare and family planning resources, particularly in the southwest? We are investigating this further.
How do these population dynamics relate to spatial patterns of modern contraception use?
One of the densest populated regions of the country, the Northwest, experienced dramatic shifts in modern contraception use between 2010 and 2014/2015.
In the Protestant-concentrated Southwest, contraception use still lags behind the rest of the country.
View the 2010 data
View the 2014/2015 data
The Northwest Volcanic region fundamentally changed its modern contraception use
Are there other factors which may explain this shift in contraception use in the Northwest?
Regression results suggest that women in the Northwest Volcanic Irish Potato region were less likely to use modern contraception, compared to similar households in the Central Plateau Coffee and Cassava zone in 2010.
However, this relationship shifted in 2014/2015, where women in the Northwest were more likely to use modern contraception than similar women in the Central Plateau — even after accounting for differences in age, wealth, and education.
What other factors influence modern contraception use?
In addition to the differences we noticed in religious groups and geography, we explored whether other demographic factors might influence family size using regression tests.
Women with more education than their counterparts were more likely to use modern contraception and less likely to want more children.
Interestingly, we did not observe a detectable difference between different wealth quintiles in use or family size, suggesting that modern contraception use does not significantly vary across the wealth spectrum. Indeed, women from more asset-rich households were more likely to want more children, all other factors equal.
Explore modern contraception use in different populations
To further look into how modern contraception use varies across different populations of Rwandan women, we broke use down by religion, wealth index, geography, age, and women's education level.
Click the tabs on the top to select different groups.
Learn more