Philipp Ager, 05 August 2019

Phillip Ager asks whether the introduction of preschool education contributes to a fall in fertility in the industrialised world.

Brian Beach, Walker Hanlon, 04 August 2019

How economic factors shaped the historical fertility transition is well studied but the role played by cultural factors remains disputed, in part because establishing the direct effect of social norms is difficult. This column examines the relationship between England and Wales’s rapid fertility transition in the late 19th century and media exposure to the 1877 Bradlaugh-Besant trial, which challenged existing censorship laws related to family planning. It finds that fertility declined more rapidly after 1877 in locations with greater exposure to newspaper articles about the trial.

Sascha O. Becker, Ana Fernandes, Doris Weichselbaumer, 05 June 2019

The arrival of a child affects women and men differently in terms of labour market outcomes, but it is difficult to separate out the causal impact of discrimination from other factors. This column uses empirical evidence from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria to show that women are most affected in part-time job applications if they signal a ‘risk’ of having young children soon.

Philipp Ager, Benedikt Herz, 16 May 2019

The transition from high to low fertility rates is regarded as one of the most important determinants of sustainable long-run growth. But despite its importance, there is still an ongoing debate about its causes and timing. This column demonstrates that a sustained shift from agriculture to manufacturing contributed to the fertility decline in the American South at the turn of the 20th century. 

Bastien Chabé-Ferret, Paula Gobbi, 26 January 2019

Between the early 1940s and the late 1960s, the secular decline in fertility that started at the turn of the 19th century in most developed countries was interrupted by a massive baby-boom. This column argues that although much attention has focused on this boom, fertility rates preceding it were abnormally low. The evidence suggests that economic uncertainty can explain a substantial part of the major swings in fertility over the 20th century.

Henrik Kleven, Camille Landais, Jakob Egholt Søgaard, 12 July 2018

Despite considerable convergence over time, substantial gender inequality persists in all countries. Using Danish data, this column argues that this gap persists because the effects of having children on the careers of women relative to men are large and have not fallen over time. Additional findings suggest this effect may be related to inherited gender identity norms.

Paula Gobbi, Marc Goñi, 28 April 2018

We know inheritance practices have an impact on inequality, social mobility, and economic growth, but the effect on fertility decisions has often been ignored even though such decisions can affect the economic impact of inheritance. This column uses data on the British aristocracy to provide evidence of the two-way link between inheritance and fertility decisions on the extensive margin. This allows us to understand modern inheritance practices, such as trusts, that restrict successors.

Michael Bar, Moshe Hazan, Oksana Leukhina, David Weiss, Hosny Zoabi, 13 January 2018

Over recent decades, the trend for high-skilled, career-focused women to have fewer children, if any at all, has reversed. Using US data, this column shows that rising wage inequality is behind the reversal. Greater income inequality enables high-income families to outsource household production to lower-income people. Changes to minimum wage laws are thus likely to affect the fertility and career decisions of the rich.

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.

Thomas Baudin, David de la Croix, Paula 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.

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