Power Outages, Power Externalities, and Baby Booms
34 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2013 Last revised: 24 Feb 2014
Date Written: February 13, 2014
Determining whether power outages have significant fertility effects is an important policy question in developing countries, where blackouts are common and modern forms of family planning scarce. Using birth records from Zanzibar, this paper shows that a 2008 month-long blackout caused a significant increase in the number of births eight to ten months later. The increase is similar across villages that had electricity, regardless of the level of electrification, while villages with no electricity connections saw no changes in birth numbers. The fact that a large fertility increase is observed in communities with very low levels of electricity suggests that the outage affected the fertility of households not connected to the grid through some spillover effect. While it is unclear whether the baby boom is likely to translate to a permanent increase in the population, the paper highlights an important hidden consequence of power instability in developing countries. It also shows evidence that electricity imposes significant externality effects on those rural populations that have little exposure to it.
Keywords: Africa, Blackouts, Electricity, Fertility, Infrastructure Development
JEL Classification: J13, J22, O12, O18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation