, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 1477–1500 | Cite as

Power Outages, Power Externalities, and Baby Booms

  • Alfredo BurlandoEmail author


Determining whether power outages have significant fertility effects is an important policy question in developing countries, where blackouts are common and modern forms of family planning are scarce. Using birth records from Zanzibar, this study shows that a month-long blackout in 2008 caused a significant increase in the number of births 8 to 10 months later. The increase was similar across villages that had electricity, regardless of the level of electrification; villages with no electricity connections saw no changes in birth numbers. The large fertility increase in communities with very low levels of electricity suggests that the outage affected the fertility of households not connected to the grid through some spillover effect. Whether the baby boom is likely to translate to a permanent increase in the population remains unclear, but this article highlights an important hidden consequence of power instability in developing countries. It also suggests that electricity imposes significant externality effects on rural populations that have little exposure to it.


Africa Blackouts Electricity Fertility Infrastructure development 



I thank three anonymous referees; Dilip Mookherjee, Shankha Chakraborty, Todd Pugatch, Liz Schroeder, and Anh Tran; and seminar participants at Oregon State University, University of Colorado Denver, the Northwest Development Workshop, and the Northeastern Universities Development Conference for helpful comments. In addition, Hajj Mohamed Hajj, Mayasa Mwinyi, Amour Bakari, and the staff at the Zanzibar Ministry of Health and the Zanzibar Office of the Chief Government Statistician all provided excellent fieldwork support.

Supplementary material

13524_2014_316_MOESM1_ESM.docx (112 kb)
Online Resource 1 (DOCX 111 kb)
13524_2014_316_MOESM2_ESM.docx (86 kb)
Online Resource 2 (DOCX 86 kb)
13524_2014_316_MOESM3_ESM.docx (106 kb)
Online Resource 3 (DOCX 106 kb)


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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