Environmental Resources, Land Degradation and Fertility in West Africa: Do We Need Better Measures or Better Theory?

Isaac Sasson, University of Texas at Austin

Demographic responses to environmental stress have long been hypothesized in classic population theory, though empirical analyses remain scarce and traditionally focus on aggregate units of analysis. With the growing concern over environmental degradation it remains an empirical question as to how, to what extent and in which spatial and temporal scales populations, especially in developing countries, are directly and indirectly affected by their immediate natural surroundings. This paper examines the link between fertility related behavior of women at the individual level and several environmental determinants across 8 sub-Saharan West African countries. Data are pooled from geo-referenced Demographic and Health Surveys (conducted 2001-2005) combined with long term climatic data and a time series of remotely sensed vegetation index spanning 25 years. Results consistently show little to no effect of immediate natural resources or gross land degradation on fertility related behavior. Despite data limitations these results call for improved theoretical specificity.

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Presented in Session 51: Measurement and Methods in Population and Environment Research