Visit to Bergen

I was in Bergen in June and presented my work with Kathleen Beegle and Luc Christiaensen on the effects of family planning on fertility at CMI and my work with Shamma Alam on income shocks and timing of fertility at Norwegian School of Economics. A new version of the family planning paper will be available soon and we should have the first public version of the timing of fertility paper ready soon as well.

Presented Gone with the Wind? paper at the CSAE Conference 2012: Economic Development in Africa

I was in Oxford in March for the 2012 CSAE Conference: Economic Development in Africa. I presented my paper on the impact of hurricane risk on fertility and education decisions. The conference was great and the quality of the papers continues to increase. You can find the latest version of the paper under "Research" on this website. A full program can be found here.

New version of "Family Planning and Fertility: Estimating Program Effects using Cross-sectional Data"

We (Kathleen Beegle, Luc Christiaensen and I) have just finished revising our paper on the effects of family planning on fertility in Ethiopia. You can find the new version, which has been submitted to a journal, here. The abstract is:

Although reproductive health advocates consider family planning programs the intervention of choice to reduce fertility, there remains a great deal of scepticism among economists as to their effectiveness, despite little rigorous evidence to support either position. This study explores the effects of family planning in Ethiopia using a novel set of instruments to control for potential non-random program placement. The instruments are based on ordinal rankings of area characteristics, motivated by competition between areas for resources. Access to family planning is found to reduce completed fertility by more than 1 child among women without education. No effect is found among women with some formal schooling, suggesting that family planning and formal education act as substitutes, at least in this low income, low growth setting. This provides support to the notion that increasing access to family planning can provide an important, complementary entry point to kick-start the process of fertility reduction.

A bit of "old" news on population growth

I really meant to put this up about a month ago, but here we go. The UN recently released the World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision. This predicts that the world's population will be 9.3 billion by 2050 and will eventually reach 10.1 billion by 2100 using their medium variant. The larger increase compared to the revision two years ago is predominantly from slower than expected fertility declines and lower HIV/AIDS mortality. The NY Times has a nice piece about the new projections and you can find the full report here (once it is all available). The press release provides a bit more detail without being overly long. There are two things especially interesting. First, the new projections are the first based on new Bayesian methods developed here at the UW by Adrian Raftery and others. The UW Today has a little article about the work here. Second, it is very timely for my work with Kathleen Beegle and Luc Christiaensen (both from the World Bank) on the effects of family planning programs in Ethiopia. We show that family planning programs are substantially more effective than what have been found in previous studies. There are two likely reasons for this. First, we focus on the effect by education level and show that the whole effect is concentrated among women with no education. Second, instead of looking at countries that are undergoing rapid economic growth and demographic changes, such as Indonesian or Columbia, we study a poor country where there is little economic growth. We find that the total number of children a woman has declines by 1.2 with access to family planning. The paper is available here.

Labour/development brown bag

I am presenting at the labour/development brown bag on Thursday 12 May at 12.30. The title of the talk is "Risk Perception, Health Knowledge, and Sexual Behavior." This is not a paper, but a research agenda with Mark Anderson. It follows partly from our recent paper on drop outs and STDs submitted to Demography. A short abstract for the talk is below.

We will discuss a new research agenda relating to adolescent sexual behavior in the US that we are beginning to work on. The talk will focus on the basics of trying to understand the formation of beliefs in the absence of (practical) experience and how expectations and beliefs change over time with experience and additional information.

CSAE and PAA conferences

Busy March: In addition to the PacDev mentioned below, I presented my work on family planning in Ethiopia at the 25th anniversary conference of the Centre for Studies of African Economies in Oxford and at the Population Association of America's annual meeting in Washington, DC. Mark Anderson and I also had a poster on our paper on the effects of dropping out of high school on sexually transmitted diseases.

Why is Dropping Out of High School Bad? Dropouts and Sexually Transmitted Infections

Mark Anderson and I just finished a paper looking at one pathway through which dropping out of school might affect future life outcomes. The paper is "Why is Dropping Out of High School Bad? Dropouts and Sexually Transmitted Infections". The abstract for the paper is:

People who drop out of high school fare worse in many aspects of life. We analyze whether there is a causal effect of dropping out of high school on the probability of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Previous studies on the relationship between dropout status and sexual outcomes have not empirically addressed self-selection effects. Using individual fixed effects estimations we find strong evidence that dropping out increases the risk of contracting an STI for females. Furthermore, we present evidence illustrating differences between the romantic partners of dropouts versus enrolled students. These differences suggest that female dropouts may be more susceptible to contracting STIs because they partner with significantly different types of people than non-dropouts. These results point to a previously undocumented benefit of encouraging those at risk of dropping out to stay in school longer.

Pacific Conference for Development Economics (PacDev)

I presented my paper on family planning in Ethiopia (joint with Kathleen Beegle and Luc Christiaesen, both from the World Bank) at the 8th annual Pacific Conference for Development Economics held at UC Berkeley. I also chaired a session on "Local Economic Shocks and Risk Sharing." As usual the conference was well attended and Ted Miguel did a great job at putting together a very nice conference.

CSDE seminar presentation on family planning in Ethiopia

I am presenting my paper "Family Planning and Fertility: Estimating Program Effects using Cross-sectional Data" today at the CSDE seminar series. The seminar runs from 12.30 to 1.30 PM and is at Thomson Hall, rm 125. You can find the current version of the paper here. The paper is joint with Kathleen Beegle and Luc Christiaensen. The abstract is:

This paper uses a novel method of identifying the effects of a family planning program when there is endogenous program placement and only cross-sectional data are available, a situation common in many developing countries. Using data from Ethiopia we find that access to family planning substantially reduces the number of children ever born for women without education; the reduction is especially pronounced for women younger than 20 and older than 30. Completed fertility, measured as children ever born for women aged 40 to 45, falls by more than one birth with access to family planning. These effects are statistically significant and substantially larger than previous studies have found. For women who have gone to school there is no evidence of an impact of family planning on fertility. Based on a relative small reduction in child mortality we argue that the effect on fertility is due to family planning access and not the concurrent presence of health facilities. Finally, family planning access reduces unwanted fertility, especially for older women.

New version of Sex Selective Abortions, Fertility and Birth Spacing

I have revised and shorten my paper on sex selective abortions in India. You can find the new version here. I have also split off the appendix with additional figures. The appendix is available here. Abstract:

Previous research on sex selective abortions has ignored the interactions between fertility, birth spacing and sex selection. This paper presents a novel approach that jointly estimates the determinants of sex selective abortions, fertility and birth spacing, using data from India's National Family and Health Surveys. For well educated Indian women the predicted number of abortions during childbearing is six percent higher after sex selection became illegal than before while their predicted fertility is eleven percent lower and around replacement level. Women with less education have substantially higher fertility and do not appear to use sex selection.

Podcast on my sex selective abortion research

I did a podcast with CSDE's Information Core Director, David Hyllegaard, on my recent research on the relation between fertility, birth spacing and the use of sex selective abortions in India. The announcement is at http://csde.washington.edu/news/notices/noticesPodcast_CPortner.shtml. There you can either download the MP3 file or see directions on how to get the podcast through iTunes.