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The Effects of Mortality on Fertility: Population Dynamics After a Natural Disaster

Abstract

Understanding how mortality and fertility are linked is essential to the study of population dynamics. We investigate the fertility response to an unanticipated mortality shock that resulted from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed large shares of the residents of some Indonesian communities but caused no deaths in neighboring communities. Using population-representative multilevel longitudinal data, we identify a behavioral fertility response to mortality exposure, both at the level of a couple and in the broader community. We observe a sustained fertility increase at the aggregate level following the tsunami, which was driven by two behavioral responses to mortality exposure. First, mothers who lost one or more children in the disaster were significantly more likely to bear additional children after the tsunami. This response explains about 13 % of the aggregate increase in fertility. Second, women without children before the tsunami initiated family-building earlier in communities where tsunami-related mortality rates were higher, indicating that the fertility of these women is an important route to rebuilding the population in the aftermath of a mortality shock. Such community-level effects have received little attention in demographic scholarship.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    As an example of a shift in perceptions occurring in the context of mortality increase, Trinitapoli and Yeatman (2011) observed an association between uncertainty about survival driven by the AIDS epidemic in Malawi and the desired timing of fertility initiation among adolescents.

  2. 2.

    In these cases, deaths are thought to have arisen as a result of residents having been elsewhere during the tsunami.

  3. 3.

    For each quarter-year, each woman who is alive and aged 15–49 contributes an observation; the pooled data include 176,862 observations for 6,363 women. The sample includes all age-eligible women who were interviewed in the pre-tsunami baseline survey and therefore represent the pre-tsunami population.

  4. 4.

    Standard errors are estimated by bootstrapping the sample using 10,000 replications (Efron and Tibshirani 1994).

  5. 5.

    Although the data are designed to support analysis of fertility timing using, for example, an event-history approach, the main goal of this research is to measure the extent to which there has been successful population rebuilding five years after the tsunami, which is provided by an estimate of γ 1 in Model 1.

  6. 6.

    The number of communities is smaller than shown in Table 1 because the analysis is conditioned on women of reproductive age surviving the disaster and being in interviewed in follow-up surveys.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful for comments from Patrick Heuveline, David Lam, Alberto Palloni, and Jim Walker. This work is supported by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (R01HD052762, R01HD051970, R03HD071131), the National Institute on Aging (R01AG031266), the National Science Foundation (CMS-0527763), the Hewlett Foundation, the World Bank, and the MacArthur Foundation (05-85158-000).

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Correspondence to Jenna Nobles.

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Nobles, J., Frankenberg, E. & Thomas, D. The Effects of Mortality on Fertility: Population Dynamics After a Natural Disaster. Demography 52, 15–38 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-014-0362-1

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Keywords

  • Mortality
  • Fertility
  • Natural disaster
  • Population rebuilding
  • Replacement