According to the conventional theory of the demographic transition, mortality decline has represented the major trigger for fertility decline and eventually sustained economic development. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the HIV/AIDS epidemic has had a devastating impact on mortality, by dramatically reversing, in high HIV-prevalence countries, the long-term positive trend in life expectancies. Despite the fact that SSA as a whole is suffering a delayed and slow fertility transition compared to other world’s regions, and despite evidence for halting or even reverting fertility decline in countries with severe HIV epidemics, there seems to be little concern amongst international policy makers, about the ultimate impact that HIV might have on SSA fertility. This work reports model-based evidence of the potential for a HIV-triggered reversal of fertility in high HIV-prevalent SSA countries induced by the fall in education and human capital investments following the drop in life expectancy for young adults. This eventually breaks down the virtuous circle promoting the switch quantity-to-quality of children. This result suggests that the current evidence on fertility halting and declining education in high HIV-prevalent SSA countries should be seriously taken into consideration to prioritise current international interventions.
Sub-Saharan Africa fertility transition quantity-quality switch HIV/AIDS epidemics human capital accumulation fertility reversal