Afghanistan’s first-ever nationally representative survey of demographic and health issues finds that Afghan women have an average of five children each, lower than most experts had anticipated. Their rate of modern contraceptive use is just slightly below that of women in neighboring Pakistan, where the fertility rate is 4.1 children per woman.

In this ECSP Report brief, demographer Elizabeth Leahy Madsen writes that just as Afghanistan and Pakistan’s political circumstances have become more entwined, their demographic paths are more closely parallel than we might have expected. For Afghanistan, given its myriad socioeconomic, political, cultural, and geographic challenges, this is good news. But for Pakistan, where efforts to meet family planning needs have fallen short of capacity, it is not.