Typhoons, Child Mortality, and Excess Fertility in a Disaster-Prone Country

J.M. Ian Salas, Harvard University

This paper assesses the extent by which environmental risk shapes fertility behavior in the Philippines, a developing country where typhoons are common and formal insurance is limited. Using DHS data, it finds that exposure to typhoons induces women to have more pregnancies. This positive fertility effect is concentrated in highly-agricultural rural areas. A third of the resulting pregnancies are lost before birth or soon after. Excess fertility is traced mostly to women with no pregnancy or child loss after the disaster, and who conceived only after observing higher fertility and child mortality among some members of their community. Women living in highly-agricultural rural areas are expected to have 2-3% more surviving children on average when their community is directly hit by a typhoon. These results are consistent with an asset motive for having children that is salient in less-developed areas and amplified by knock-on child mortality and social network effects.

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Presented in Session 223: Population and Natural Disasters