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Environmental degradation and the demand for children: searching for the vicious circle in Pakistan

  • Deon Filmer (a1) and Lant H. Pritchett (a2)

Abstract

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, grazing animals—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 firewood collection 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 a dominant, portion of collection activities; and the presence of older children in the household reduces the time that 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.

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We would like to thank Kenneth Chomitz, Lawrence Goulder, the seminar participants of the Environmental Policy Forum at Stanford University and the Advisory Committee for the research project, ‘Social and Environmental Consequences of Growth-Oriented Economic Policies’ for helpful comments, as well as participants at a Workshop on Poverty, Environment and Growth-Oriented Policies held at The World Bank in March 1999. We would like to gratefully acknowledge funding from the research project. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank, its Executive Directors, or the countries they represent.

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Environmental degradation and the demand for children: searching for the vicious circle in Pakistan

  • Deon Filmer (a1) and Lant H. Pritchett (a2)

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