Urban slums and their implications for national fertility rate


With the expected increase in world population by one billion people in just over a decade, governments in less developed countries are faced with the challenge of having to accommodate the majority of this future population growth. This is of concern since many of these countries currently face various social, economic and infrastructural challenges that impede their ability to adequately accommodate this increase in people. One such challenge is how to deal with the current issue of their large and youthful populations, many of which are located in slums in large cities. A large youthful population presents many opportunities for stimulating economic growth, and for building a more civil and educated community. However, as can be seen in the context of developing countries, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa, wrestling with this problem continues
to be an ongoing challenge.

A related issue to population growth is that of high fertility rates in less developed countries. While many such countries have made remarkable strides in order to reduce fertility rates, for some countries, progress has been slow. For other countries, for example, those within the MENA and SSA developing regions, substantial progress has been made towards
reducing fertility rates; however fertility rates in these regions still
continue to be among the highest in the world. Developing regions have much larger slum populations compared to developed regions. This is in part owing to the failure of governments in these regions to adequately meet the demands (e.g., housing and jobs) of their growing population. As a result, existing slums expand and new slums emerge in order to informally accommodate the needs of this growing population. Given the typically high fertility rates in slum communities and the larger presence of slums in
less developed countries that are currently facing the most pressing population growth and fertility issues, this study hypothesized that slums are in part responsible for fertility rates variations amongst less developed countries.

Analyzing data from a sample of 72 countries in the developing world, our results support the prior hypothesis that slums affect countries’
fertility rates. More specifically, the results of this study showed that an
increase in the number of slum dwellers leads to a subsequent small increase in fertility rates. Additional drivers for fertility rates identified were contraceptive prevalence, female education, and infant mortality, all of which are consistent with the literature on fertility dynamics. For example, better-educated women are expected to be more knowledgeable on the use of contraceptive methods and ways of accessing them. These women may also favor fewer kids that can be well taken care of, compared to having large families where resources shared amongst family members may become stretched too thin. As a result, our analyses showed that an increase in female education reduces the instance of fertility rate. Further, while the results for contraceptive prevalence and female
education were consistent across all models derived in this study, the same was not true for infant mortality, with further research needed to examine why this had occurred.

In order to test the robustness of the slum measure, this study used two
measures of slum: (1) the urban slum population as a percentage of the total urban population, and (2) the urban slum population as a percentage of total population. The results of such analysis showed a similar small increase in fertility rate with the increase in the number of slum dwellers. Such empirical findings are important since they suggest that while the magnitude of slums’ impact in affecting countries’ fertility rates may be small, with the increased  growth of these communities, this impact may become magnified in the future due to the multiplier effect. Thus, in order to adequately address the fertility rate issues that less developing countries are experiencing, governments in these countries should take a more active role in better managing their slum populations.

Reference: Hassan, S.M., and Mahabir, R.S. (2018). Urban slums and fertility rate differentials. Population Review, 57(2):47-74.

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Author: Sherif M. Hassan

Sherif Maher Hassan is a member of the academic council of M&S Research Hub (www.ms-researchhub.com), he has been a research affiliate at the Global Labor Network (GLO) since 2017, a research associate at the Economic Research Forum (ERF) since 2018, a member in the Eurasia Business and Economics Society (EBES) and International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences (IISEC). His current research focuses in general on development economics, particulary political economy, demographic changes, migration and fertility behavior. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Philipps University of Marburg, an MA in Economics and political science from the same university and a joint MSc in Economics from Suez Canal and Cairo Universities.

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