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Climate change will affect fertility differently in wealthy and poor countries

Climate change will affect fertility differently in wealthy and poor countries. An international team of researchers has determined that the economic effects of climate change will have a substantial impact on fertility. The experts predict that many people will re-evaluate how much time and money they should dedicate to raising children as resources become more limited.

The study examined the economic channels through which climate change could affect fertility, including the gender wage gap, longevity, and mortality.

The team used a quantitative model that combined standard economic-demographic theory with projections of how climate change will impact the economy. The model, which focused on Colombia and Switzerland, was designed to analyze how these impacts may vary between wealthy and poor countries.

In the model, parents must decide how to divide limited resources between supporting current family needs, having children, and paying for each child’s education.

“Increases in global temperature affect agricultural and non-agricultural sectors differently. Near the equator, where many poorer countries are, climate change has a larger negative effect on agriculture,” said study lead author Dr. Gregory Casey of Williams College.

“This leads to scarcity of agricultural goods, higher agricultural prices and wages and ultimately, a labour reallocation. Because agriculture makes less use of skilled labor, our model showed that climate change decreases the return on acquiring skills, leading parents to invest fewer resources in the education of each child, and to increase fertility.”

On the other hand, these patterns were found to be reversed at higher latitudes.

“Our model suggests climate change may worsen inequalities by reducing fertility and increasing education in richer northern countries, while increasing fertility and reducing education in tropical countries,” said study co-author Dr. Soheil Shayegh. “This is particularly poignant, because those richer countries have disproportionately benefited from the natural resource use that has driven climate change.”

“Our model only deals with a single economic channel, so it is not intended to give a complete quantitative account of the impact of climate change on demographic outcomes,” concluded Dr. Casey. “Further work is needed on other economic channels, especially those related to health.”

The study is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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