Oct 11, 2012

Economic booms and risky sexual behavior (Ref. Zambia)

Copper mines in Zambia, from Wikipedia 
Existing studies suggest that individual and household level economic shocks affect the demand for and supply of risky sex. However, little evidence exists on the effects of an aggregate shock on equilibrium risky sexual behavior. This paper examines the effects of the early twenty-first century copper boom on risky sexual behavior in Zambian copper mining cities. The results suggest that the copper boom substantially reduced rates of transactional sex and multiple partnerships in copper mining cities. These effects were partly concentrated among young adults and copper boom induced in-migration to mining cities appear s to have contributed to these reductions.
That is from the new published paper "Economic booms and risky sexual behavior: Evidence from Zambian copper mining cities" by Nicholas Wilson (Journal of Heath Economics, December 2012). A 2010-draft is here.
The author explains:
. . . [T]his economic boom reduced pregnancy rates among young women, the women most likely in general to report engaging in transactional sex and having multiple sexual partners. This suggests that the supply-side effects of rising incomes and economic opportunities for women outside of sexual activity dominate demand-side effects, if any, among men of rising incomes and increased willingness-to-pay for sex. 
These results may be broadly generalizable to predict the effects of economic booms or growth on risky sexual behavior in other very poor countries. Unlike stereotypical mining settings in many other parts of the world, the Zambian copper mines are located in relatively large urban areas with gender ratios very close to one. Thus, the effects of the quasi-experiment provided by the Zambian copper boom may resemble the effects of economy-wide growth on risky sexual behavior in very poor countries. This suggests that balanced economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa may be an important factor in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. However, although the demographic structure of Zambian mining cities is approximately representative of many Sub-Saharan African countries rather than mining regions in particular, a host of contextual factors may condition the observed response in this study setting. Likewise, the effect of long-run economic growth on risky sexual behavior may differ from that of a long and sustained positive economic shock. Certainly additional research on this question is required.

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