Daniel Aaronson, Rajeev Dehejia, Andrew Jordan, Cristian Pop-Eleches , Cyrus Samii, Karl Schulze, 15 September 2017

Women’s fertility and labour supply decisions are made simultaneously, making it difficult to identify the effect of the former on the latter. This column explores the relationship using a dataset spanning 200 years and 103 countries, leveraging twin births to isolate causal effects. The key finding is that as countries develop, women’s labour supply becomes more responsive to additional children. The global decline in fertility over the last century has played a positive role in increasing women’s work in developed countries, but a negligible one in developing countries.

S Anukriti, Sonia Bhalotra, Hiu Tam, 10 September 2017

Thomas Baudin, David de la Croix, Paula E. Gobbi, 25 July 2017

The fertility of women in developing countries is higher on average than in developed countries, yet many women in developing countries remain childless. This column argues that understanding the causes of why some women choose childlessness is important if we wish to predict the impact that development policies have on the demographic transition of poor countries.

Wolfgang Frimmel, Martin Halla, Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 18 August 2016

It has been widely demonstrated that parental divorce is associated with negative outcomes for affected children. However, the degree of causality in this relationship is not as clear. This column tackles this problem by using the level of gender integration in fathers’ workplaces as an instrument for divorce. The results suggest a causal link between divorce and worse economic outcomes that persists into early adulthood. 

Marianne Bertrand, Patricia Cortes, Claudia Olivetti, Jessica Pan, 21 June 2016

Marriage rates of skilled and unskilled women have evolved quite differently across countries since 1995. The rate is lower overall for skilled women but the gap is narrowing, and even reversing, in some countries. This column uses evidence from 23 countries between 1995 and 2010 to consider how skilled women’s labour market opportunities impact their marriage prospects in different societies. Generally, more conservative societies have lower marriage rates for skilled women relative to unskilled women, with the effects of an increase in skilled women’s wages depending on the degree of conservatism.

Charles Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth, 04 November 2014

Most of the world is now at the point where the support ratio is becoming adverse, and the growth of the global workforce is slowing. This column argues that these changes will have profound and negative effects on economic growth. This implies that negative real interest rates are not the new normal, but rather an extreme artefact of a series of trends, several of which are coming to an end. By 2025, real interest rates should have returned to their historical equilibrium value of around 2.5–3%.

Oded Galor, Marc Klemp, 04 October 2014

The substitution from child quantity to quality has been credited for mankind’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the advent of sustained economic growth. This column argues that biocultural preferences for quality faced positive selection pressure in the pre-growth era, presenting evidence from the founding population of Quebec. Individuals with moderate levels of fecundity had fewer children than those with high fecundity, but produced more descendants in the long run because their children enjoyed higher reproductive success. 

Abhijit Banerjee, Xin Meng, Tommaso Porzio, Nancy Qian, 04 September 2014

The loosening of the one-child policy will transform China’s demographic development in coming years, but it also runs the risk of lowering China’s high rate of personal savings. This column argues that high estimates of the magnitude of this response may be overstated. There are multiple channels at play, and predictions of a large response in savings do not account for general equilibrium effects.

Harun Onder, Pierre Pestieau, 20 May 2014

The world’s population is ageing, due to both increasing longevity and decreasing fertility. This column shows that the net effect of ageing on capital accumulation (and therefore growth) depends on which of these two factors dominates, and also on the structure of the pension system. Under a pension system with defined contributions, a reduction in fertility induces adjustments in savings and working life that unambiguously increase capital per worker.

Taha Choukhmane, Nicolas Coeurdacier , Keyu Jin, 22 January 2014

Since China is growing rapidly, one might expect Chinese households to borrow against their future income. In fact, Chinese households save 30.5% of their income – compared to about 5% in OECD countries. This column discusses recent research linking the Chinese saving puzzle to China’s one-child policy. The savings rate of households with twins is about 6–7 percentage points lower than that of households with an only child. Demographic factors can explain an estimated 35–45% of the 20 percentage-point rise in China’s household saving rate between 1983 and 2011.

Thorvaldur Gylfason, 17 November 2013

Based on statistical measures of different degrees of democracy vs. autocracy, this article briefly reviews the progress of democracy around the world during the past 212 years, and places democratic developments in Africa since 1960 in that context. Democracy is positively associated with education, which in turn is associated with lower fertility and greater longevity. Democracy is also associated with reduced corruption. Together, these effects suggest democracy should be good for growth – a hypothesis that is borne out by the data.

James Fenske, 09 November 2013

Several theories link polygamy to poverty. Polygamy is concentrated in west Africa and has declined in recent decades. Geographic variation in women’s agricultural productivity does not predict differences in the prevalence of polygamy, but historical inequality and exposure to the slave trade do. Although contemporary female education does not reduce polygamy, areas with more educational investment in the past have less polygamy today. Conflict and lower rainfall lead to small increases in polygamy, whereas lower child mortality leads to a large decrease. National policies appear to have little effect.

Shelly Lundberg, Robert Pollak, 29 October 2013

Marriage patterns have changed in the last 50 years as fertility rates declined and cohabitation became more widespread. These trends can be explained by a shift in the gains from marriage away from specialisation and towards investment in children. This column argues that different patterns in childrearing are key to understanding class differences in marriage and parenthood. Heterogeneity in preferences for – or ability to invest in – child human capital explain marriage and fertility patterns across socioeconomic groups.

Simone Bertoli, Francesca Marchetta, 04 October 2013

Return migrants have major social and economic consequences for their countries of origin. This column uses Egyptian household-level data to analyse the effects of migrants returning from neighbouring Arab countries. Start-up firms by returnees are more likely to survive, and returnee families tend to have more children. These results imply that return migration may not be an unmitigated blessing for Egypt.

Sascha O. Becker, 13 January 2012

Sascha Becker of the University of Warwick talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his research on the important role that formal education played in facilitating industrialisation in nineteenth century Prussia. They also discuss the relationship between education and fertility, and historical evidence in support of ‘unified growth theory’. The interview was recorded in August 2010.

Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, Nicole Schneeweis, Margherita Fort, 05 January 2012

Demographic research typically reports negative correlations between schooling and fertility. But this column argues more education can lead to an increase in the number of children per woman. It uses data for more than 6000 individuals from eight European countries where compulsory schooling reforms took place between 1942 and 1967 and finds that one additional year of compulsory schooling increases the number of children by approximately 0.2 and the probability to remain childless by around ten percentage points.

Avraham Ebenstein, Moshe Hazan, Avi Simhon, 02 December 2011

For years, policymakers trying to influence the decisions of would-be parents have tried to change the ‘price’ of having children. In France they have made it cheaper; in China more expensive. This column looks at whether such policies are likely to have their desired effect. It examines unique evidence of a shock to the cost of having a child in Israeli communities between 1990 and 2000.

Moshe Hazan, Hosny Zoabi, 03 October 2011

What is the relationship between women's education, income, and family size? CEPR DP8590 presents new evidence from the US in support of the 'marketization hypothesis' -- that women's increased labour-force participation allows them to buy market services to raise their families. Highly educated American women substitute much of their own time with nannying and housekeeping services, which enables them to have more children and work longer hours.

Torben M Andersen, 06 January 2009

How will the shrinking labour force pay for the pensions and healthcare of the growing elderly? This column argues that linking retirement ages to longevity would alleviate a significant part of the deterioration in public finances and ensure that the burden of adjustment is carried by those gaining from increases in longevity.

Francesco Billari, Vincenzo Galasso, 07 November 2008

Economic theory views children as investment or consumption goods. Using Italian pension reforms as a natural experiment, this column find evidence that supports the “children as investment” view.

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