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Rural electrification and fertility change


This article addresses the possible linkage between the spread of electrification in rural areas and subsequent declines in human fertility. Evidence from nine studies in six countries is reviewed and compared. The conclusion from this review is that there is, in fact, some link and that the higher the level of rural electrification the higher is contraceptive prevalence and the lower is the level of fertility. This link appears puzzling at first glance, but the article proposes a conceptual and theoretical framework for interpreting these results and fitting them into accepted theories of fertility. Finally, some important policy implications are discussed and future directions for research indicated.

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This paper was prepared for a workshop on “The Relationship between Rural Electrification and Fertility Decline” sponsored by the National Rural Electrical Cooperatives Association and the Population Issues Research Center of Pennsylvania State University. The workshop was held in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 1984. (Copies of a summary of the proceedings of the workshop can be obtained from Mr. Philip P. Costas, International Programs Division, National Rural Electrical Cooperatives Association, 1800 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, U.S.A.) The authors received helpful comments on the paper from Richard Bilsborrow, Gretchen Cornwell, Gordon DeJong, Ronald Freedman, and Ozzie Simmons as well as many other participants in the workshop.

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Harbison, S.F., Robinson, W.C. Rural electrification and fertility change. Popul Res Policy Rev 4, 149–171 (1985).

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  • Rural Area
  • Economic Policy
  • Policy Implication
  • Important Policy
  • Fertility Change