Ah.. Fertility back in focus

First of all Nigeria has a population problem. We have a huge population which is growing at about 2.5% per year. Not alarming but something to be concerned about. Seeing as you can’t really argue for killing people off to control the population, the spotlight is on births. Fertility. Nigeria has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, currently about 5.53 births per woman. The generally accepted number is between 2 and 3 births per woman. 1 if you are in China unless you have a Ph.D. :-). GEJ is right. The fertility rate is too high and something needs to be done about it.

I guess I should throw out the crap first. We cannot legislate away the high fertility rate. Well technically we can make laws that say no woman can have more than 4 children ( which I think we already have or had). Such a law will however be as useful as a law that says you can only eat cassava bread and not wheat bread. It will exist on a piece of paper somewhere but will have zero effect on the fertility rate.

The second proposed strategy of GEJ is to “inform people about birth control “. Basically raise awareness about birth control with the assumption that if people know about birth control and contraceptives they will opt to use it and reduce the number of children they have. Sounds good in theory. The graph below certainly suggests an association between knowing about birth control and lower fertility rates.


The graph can be a bit misleading though. Lots of economists argue that it is not about knowing but using of birth control. In essence the problem is not that people don’t know how to reduce the number of kids they have but about not wanting to reduce the number of kids they have. The second graph below certainly shows an association between actual use of birth control and fertility rates.


A simple regression testing the explanatory power of knowing about birth control and using birth control suggests that it is not really about knowing about birth control (Yes I know this is not a rigorous test – just trying to make a point). Areas with higher fertility rates have higher rates not because they don’t know about birth control and fertility but because they don’t want to reduce their fertility rates. They don’t want fewer children. In this context raising awareness about birth control will not really be effective in reducing fertility rates.

Another graph I want to share is the correlation between fertility rates and education ( or the lack of education). This doesn’t mean that more education leads to lower fertility. It is likely that education is acting as a proxy for economic development in general. Still it is interesting.


All the data used is from the 2008 Demographic and Health Survey.

5 thoughts on “Ah.. Fertility back in focus

  1. Absolutely love the way u attacked the issue, no attack at all.
    1. the population growth rate, at 2.5% is alarming if u compare with the economic growth rate of realistically 0.01% ( i don’t believe any Nigerian reports)
    2. you can argue for killing off people, it would only be polemical and pointless
    3. education acting as a proxy to economic development is a profound statement, i intend to impress people with it later on today.

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