The baby bonanza; Africa’s population

November 1, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Bob Walker for this editorial.

I believe a lot of this story is correct, except for the statement, “As people get richer, they have fewer children.” Indeed, I think the Economist has it backwards. There is much evidence that as people have fewer children, they become richer. While there is strong correlation between wealth and low fertility, the issue is what is cause and what is effect. Below is a short paper I wrote making this point.

Population and Economics by Willam Ryerson (Word doc., 42 KB)

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Is Africa an exception to the rule that countries reap a “demographic dividend” as they grow richer?

In Jabi village, on the Juba River in southern Somalia, the mothers are mostly girls. They marry as early as 14 and have their first baby soon after. Their duties barely advance them above a donkey: childbearing and rearing, working in the fields, fetching water from the crocodile-infested river, sweeping faeces from the straw huts. Most have been raggedly circumcised. They have no contraception. There is no school. How many women in the village have died giving birth? “We cannot count the number,” blurts out Asha Hussein; she and the other women weep.

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