The Lagging Fertility Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Role of Structural Change

Nicolas Büttner, University of Passau
Michael Grimm, University of Passau
Isabel Günther, ETH Zürich
Kenneth Harttgen, ETH Zurich
Stephan Klasen, University of Göttingen

We explore whether the lack of structural change can explain this slow transition. For this end, we analyze the determinants of fertility transitions across the developing world using a novel first-level administrative units (regions) panel dataset created by matching Demographic and Health Surveys and Household Income Surveys from 60 countries over three decades. Our key hypothesis is that structural change, i.e. a shift of employment from subsistence agriculture to more skill-intensive services and outward oriented activities accompanied by an increase in returns to education and human capital accumulation, is a key driver of the fertility transition. Our results strongly indicate that higher education of women, female employment in non-agricultural formal jobs, and a general increase in modern economic development as measured by an increase in nighttime light intensity are indeed important drivers of the fertility decline. Simulations show that if high-fertility countries in Sub-Saharan Africa had experienced the same structural change as the most demographically advanced regions in our sample, fertility levels would be at most 69 to 79% of what they are now. Our results suggest that policies that enhance structural change could be very effective in accelerating the fertility transition in the Sub-Saharan African context.

Keywords: Demographic dividend and economic development, Fertility and childbirth, Harmonized data sets, Economic analysis

See paper.

  Presented in Session 143. Modelling the Demographic Dividend and Policy Implications