Essays on Fertility and the Demographic Dividend in Sub-Saharan Africa: Exploring the Puzzles and Possibilities

Amarachi Utah-Adjibola, University of Pennsylvania


The phenomenon of the "demographic dividend" in Africa has become a source of considerable and vigorous public discourse in both policy and academic spheres over the last two decades. A growing body of research explores this phenomenon in the African context, tying its occurrence to a variety of demographic transitional factors popular among which are fertility and dynamic population age structures. In three essays, this dissertation explores the demographic dividend in cross section of sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries with emphasis on the fertility transition as it relates to other demographic and economic parameters. In the first essay, I investigate the relationship between the decelerating pace of fertility decline and economic growth in seven SSA countries using a random effects growth model. I find that stalled fertility decline has a consistently, statistically significant negative effect on economic growth. In the second essay, I use age-specific National Transfer Accounts data to estimate the support ratio and demographic dividend for the period 1970 through 2100, and decompose the difference in the support ratio components estimated for all the countries using Nigeria; the earliest-transition country in the sample as my baseline. By departing from the use of conventional, fixed age-limits to define the support ratio, I improve on the accuracy of prior support ratio estimates, and with my decomposition, I provide a new and comprehensive view of the component contributions of economic versus demographic behavior to the overall dividend. In the third essay, I focus on the dividend in Malawi. Malawi is an interesting case-study because until recently the potential for a dividend has been negligible. However, recent, accelerated fertility decline may signal improved potential for growth. Generating probabilistic fertility and population projections for Malawi, and using an economic-demographic simulation model to assess the dividend prospects given historical and current fertility patterns, I find that the recent steep fertility declines in Malawi do bode well for the country's dividend future. The results in this dissertation help demystify the demographic dividend phenomenon in Africa, extends the literature, and lays the groundwork for policy focused on making the dream of a demographic dividend a reality.

Subject Area

Sub Saharan Africa Studies|Demography

Recommended Citation

Utah-Adjibola, Amarachi, "Essays on Fertility and the Demographic Dividend in Sub-Saharan Africa: Exploring the Puzzles and Possibilities" (2018). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10808367.