Trade Openness and Fertility Rates in Africa: Panel Data Evidence

We study the effect of trade openness on fertility rates in fifty African countries during the1962 – 2010 period. By disaggregating the trade openness data in novel ways, and allowing for country and time fixed effects, our results indicate that trade openness and imports of manufactured goods are significantly related to lower fertility. Furthermore, trade with the former colonial powers and imports of high-skilled manufactured goods, which include television receivers and telecommunications equipment, are significantly related to lower fertility too. Given that Africa export mostly agricultural products and raw materials, the results contrast with the comparative-advantages prediction. Our results, however, suggest that the knowledge, new information, beliefs, attitudes and gender norms emanating from imported high-skilled manufactured goods such as television receivers are affecting fertility choices and, ultimately, having a reinforcing effect on Africa’s ongoing demographic transition.

Working paper 807
1 January 2020