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Apostles and Zionists: The influence of religion on demographic change in rural Zimbabwe

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Religion has acted as a brake on demographic transition in a number of historical and contemporary populations. In a study in two rural areas of Zimbabwe, we found substantial differences in recent demographic trends between Mission and Independent or `Spirit-type' churches. Birth rates are higher in some Spirit-type churches and, until recently, infant mortality was also higher. Recent increases in mortality were seen within Mission churches but not in Spirit-type churches. Missiological and ethnographic data indicate that differences in religious teaching on healthcare-seeking and sexual behaviour and differences in church regulation could explain this contrast in demographic patterns. More restrictive norms on alcohol consumption and extra-marital relationships in Spirit-type churches may limit the spread of HIV and thereby reduce its impact on mortality. These contrasting trends will influence the future religious and demographic profile of rural populations in Zimbabwe.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1999

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