The Social and Private Benefits of Reducing High Fertility in Low-Income Countries: Implications for Sub-Saharan African and Global Economic Prospects

Monica Das Gupta, World Bank Group
John G. Cleland, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)
Shareen Joshi, Georgetown University

There is a large but scattered literature on the private and social benefits of reducing high fertility. This paper reviews the literature on three themes: (a) Do population dynamics affect poor countries’ prospects for economic growth? (b) Can human innovation sustainably manage potential resource scarcities? and (c) Are there private benefits to lower fertility? The literature indicates several benefits from reducing high fertility. Lower youth dependency ratios help increase savings and investment. Lower fertility brings private benefits in better maternal and child health, schooling, increased women’s laborforce participation, and higher household earnings. Population growth adds to pressure on global common property resources, which are inherently difficult to manage. While family planning programs are only one policy lever to help reduce fertility, studies find them effective. These might help especially in the Sub-Saharan African region, where fertility remains high and constraints to economic growth make it harder to accommodate larger populations.

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Presented in Session 173: Population, Health, and Economic Development