WHGI Publications & Resources

Mortality, fertility, and economic development: An analysis of 201 countries from 1960 to 2015

Authors: Amy O. Tsui, Qingfeng Li, Saifuddin Ahmed, Li Liu
Publication Year: 2018

Background: The efficient utilization of the economic opportunities effected by rapid reductions in fertility and mortality is known as the demographic dividend. In this paper, our objectives are to (1) estimate the contribution of fertility and mortality decline during the period 1960-2015 to demographic dividend due to change in age structure, and (2) assess the economic consequences of population age structure change.

Methods: Employing the cohort component method, we performed population projections with different scenarios of changes in mortality and fertility between 1960 and 2015 in 201 countries. We specifically focused on low- and middle-income countries in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), Northern Africa, and sub-Sahara Africa (SSA)

Results: The child dependency ratio, defined as the number of children (0-14 years) per 100 working age population (15-64 years), would be 54 higher than the observed level in 2015 in both Asia and LAC, had fertility not declined. That means that every 100 working age population would need to support an additional 54 children. Due to the less substantial fertility decline, child dependency ratio would only be 16 higher if there were no fertility decline in SSA. Global GDP (constant 2011 international $) would be $19,016 billion less than the actual level in 2015 had the fertility decline during 1960-2015 not occurred, while the respective regional decreases are $12,390 billion in Asia, $1,985 billion in LAC, $484 billion in Northern Africa, and $321 billion in SSA.

Conclusions: SSA countries may accelerate the catch-up process in reducing fertility by investing more in family planning programs. This will lead to a more favorable dependency ratio and consequently facilitate a demographic dividend opportunity in SSA, which, if properly utilized, will spur economic development for the coming decades.

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