The Impact of Technical Change in Agriculture on Human Fertility: District-level Evidence From India

foster development, both of which were expected to create "breathing space" for achieving demographic transitions in developing countries through lowered human fertility. Little comprehensive research, however, has been done on the effects of those technologies themselves on human fertility -- leaving unanswered the question of whether particular types of agricultural technologies were actually increasing, or decreasing, this demographic "breathing space." This paper uses District-level data from rural India on agricultural change (from 1961 to 1981) and changes in human fertility (from 1971 to 1981) to assess the impact of the former on the latter, with particular emphasis on high yielding (HYV) Green Revolution technologies. Modifying a conceptual framework derived from theory on the determinants of fertility, and estimating a reduced form model that explicitly accounts for endogeneity of real wage growth, we find that, while socio-cultural and demographic factors were the strongest determinants of fertility change: a) Green Revolution and related technologies did have an impact on fertility change; b) that the magnitude and direction of this impact was technology specific; and c) that the impact was only partially due to the effect of the new technologies on changes in real wage growth. Rapid real wage growth was significantly associated with more rapid subsequent fertility decline. Even controlling for real wage growth effects explained by HYV technologies, HYV-technology-specific impacts on human fertility declines persisted: greater diffusion of both wheat and rice HYV led to faster fertility declines, while greater diffusion of bajra HYV led to smaller fertility declines. The study confirms the overwhelming importance of socio-cultural and demographic variables such as female literacy and marriage rates in determining fertility change, and finds a fertility-promoting role of high initial (1961) levels (not growth) of per capita cereal calorie production -- perhaps an indication of the low nutritional levels prevalent at that time in the sample. Policy implications are drawn, including the need to continue to develop sustainable agricultural technologies appropriate to developing areas, but with more attention paid to their human fertility consequences, so that compensating policies can be implemented, if needed.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-25

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