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Environmental Degradation

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Introduction and backgroundI) Examining the background conditions for a vicious circleConclusionsREVISION January 2001Environmental Degradation and the Demand for Children:Searching for the Vicious Circle in PakistanDeon [email protected] World Bank1818 H St NWWashington DC 20433Lant H. [email protected] F. Kennedy School of Government and The World BankAbstract If children contribute to the household by using their time to collect natural resources from common property sources – such as collecting firewood, fetching water, collecting fodder, grazinganimals – then local depletion of these resources could potentially increase the demand for children. This feedback could create a dynamically unstable “vicious circle” between population growth and resource depletion. We empirically examine several elements of such a “vicious circle”hypothesis using data from Pakistan with unusually rich detail on both child time use and firewoodcollection activities. We find that collection activities do absorb a substantial part of household resources; that children’s tasks are relatively devoted to collection activities; that child time is a significant, but not dominant, portion of collection activities; and the presence of older children in the household reduces the time that older women devote to household tasks. Exploratory multivariate regressions show a partial correlation between indicators of firewood scarcity and fertility—a relationship that varies across regions of Pakistan.SummaryThis paper explores empirically the hypothesis that, because of their important role in collection activities related to common property environmental goods (e.g. firewood and water collection), the demand for children may increase with local resource depletion, setting up a vicious circle interaction between resource depletion and population growth. Analysis of a large household survey from Pakistan with detailed information on female time allocation (child and adult), firewood use, and collection activities, and fertility establishes five findings.First, collection activities absorb a substantial part of total household resources. The time devoted to firewood collection accounts for an average of 6.2 percent of household expenditure—as high as 7.9 percent in Baluchistan and 8.8 percent in the Sindh.Second, a substantial fraction of firewood is collected from households’ own land—especially for the poor. Nevertheless, in the Sindh, about 90 percent of the firewood collection is on public or private land belonging to others. Third children spend relatively more of their time on collection activities, which absorb a quarter of their time. However, since they devote much less total time to household tasks—these rise from hours 10 hours per week at age 10 to over 50 at aged thirty—female children accountedfor only 16 percent of all household hours devoted to collection activities. Fourth, older female children do make a net contribution: the time that older women in thehousehold work on household tasks is reduced by 2.2 hours a week in household activities for each child aged 10 to 15 and by 3.4 hours for each child over 15.Fifth, firewood availability does seem to be related to fertility. While not purporting to “test” any specific behavioral model, we show in descriptive reduced form multivariate regressions that, even after controlling for other determinants of fertility, households living in areas in which the distance from firewood is greater tend to have more children, while householdliving in areas in which firewood is more expensive tend to have fewer children. As would be expected this relationship is complex and varies across regions of Pakistan—being particularly strong in the Sindh where indications of fuelwood scarcity are the greatest.Environmental Degradation and the Demand for Children:Searching for the Vicious Circle in Pakistan1Introduction and backgroundAs environmental degradation has moved to the core of the development agenda, so too have theories suggesting links among the problems of poverty, population, and the environment. Some authors have proposed theoretical models that demonstrate the possibility of a “vicious circle” in which greater population leads to a worsening environment, and a worsening environment leads to more rapid population growth (Dasgupta, 1995, Cleaver and Schreiber, 1995). One half of the vicious circle may seem obvious: that in areas where natural resources are managed as common property greater population will lead to pressures on, and ultimately degradation of, the natural resource base: soil quality, water, grazing areas, firewood availability.2 The second half of the vicious circle is less obvious: why would greater environmental degradation lead to increased population growth? Most conventional theories of fertility suggest that a decline in a household’s private resources (including lower value of land owned) should lead to a lower demand for children. This is a result of both an income effect and because the lower household command over of resources reduces the marginal productivity of all household members, including children. This fertility feedback response would mitigate, rather than exacerbate, environmental degradation. What then is the behavioral mechanism that would produce a vicious circle such that increased scarcity of natural resource goods leads to greater demand for children? Nerlove (1991,1992) explores the dynamics of models with vicious circle environment-population feedback effects and uses the following “parable” to describe the process:For example, as forests recede up the mountain side, parents may perceive a greater benefit of having an additional child to gather firewood. More realistically, in a poor 3agricultural setting lower quality environments may be associated with a greater livestock component in total production. [...] Arguably, children have a comparative advantage overadults in tending livestock in contrast to the heavier labor of planting, tilling and harvesting crops. Thus, environmental deterioration may well enhance the marginal productivity of children, at least relative to family productivity. (Nerlove, 1991:1335)Dasgupta (1993, 1995) and Dasgupta and Maler (1995) develop similar theories, with an emphasis on poverty as an intervening factor: that is, collection activities are important for poor households, children are


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