Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science


Environmental Science

Advisor 1

Dr. Helen Neill, Examination Committee Chair, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Nevada Las Vegas


This dissertation examines whether the vicious circle theory applies in three developing countries characterized by high population growth. According to the vicious circle theory, natural resource scarcity coupled with poverty leads to population growth via positive effects on fertility particularly in rural areas of developing countries. Population growth then leads to a further increase in natural resource scarcity, creating a "feedback loop." This is the first study to use micro-level data to test and control for endogeneity using a two-stage Probit model (IVPROBIT). The existing literature has largely failed to address endogeneity in the relationship between natural resource scarcity and population growth. This study was conducted using cross-sectional data collected by Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in Honduras, Nepal, and Tanzania. This study compared the results of single equation models (traditional approach) and IVPROBIT models. The study found that IVPROBIT method consistently outperforms the traditional approach. The levels of statistical significance and magnitudes of the natural resource scarcity coefficients as measured by the time taken to get to the source of drinking water increase for IVPROBIT models. The results provide support for the vicious circle argument by showing that natural resource scarcity and poverty lead to increases in fertility for two of the three countries examined. The coefficients of natural resource scarcity were positively related to fertility. In addition, the coefficients of wealth index which measure households' wealth were negatively related to fertility. The results were consistent for Honduras and Nepal. This study draws a number of important conclusions. First, the analysis confirms that natural resource scarcity is endogenous to fertility. This means the results of the traditional approach may be biased by not addressing endogeneity. Second, protecting natural resources is not only good for the environment but also an important tool if reduced population growth is an objective. Third, reducing poverty is an important factor in reducing fertility. Fourth, the importance of other control variables such as women's education is important as revealed by the study findings. Moreover, targeting infant and child mortality may be a very effective means of reducing fertility.


Developing countries; Family size; Natural resources; Population; Poverty; Scarcity; Vicious circle principle (Logic)


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Environmental Sciences | Family, Life Course, and Society | Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Sustainability

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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