The effect of land degradation on fertility in West Africa : disaggregating the demographic response
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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 eight sub-Saharan West African countries. Data is pooled from georeferenced Demographic and Health Surveys (conducted 2001-2005) combined with long term climatic data and a time series of remotely sensed vegetation index spanning 23 years. Results consistently show little to no effect of immediate natural resources or gross land degradation on fertility related behavior, but that effects tend to become more pronounced in larger geographic scales. Despite data limitations these results call for improved theoretical specificity. Questions that need to be addressed, both theoretically and empirically, are at which spatial and temporal scales environmental pressures induce certain types of demographic responses.