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A model of voluntary childlessness

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  • Paula Gobbi

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Abstract

Demographers and sociologists have studied why women remain childless for more than two decades; however, this specific choice of zero fertility has not interested economists. Permanent childlessness, in developed countries, can concern up to 30 % of the women in a cohort. Childlessness rates can be positively related to average fertility for some cohorts of women. This paper provides an explanation for this using an endogenous fertility model where individuals have different preferences for children. The main mechanism considered goes through the intergenerational evolution of preferences: I show that a reduction in the gender wage gap, or an increase in the fixed cost of becoming a parent, has a negative effect on both fertility and childlessness. The reduction of childlessness is due to a composition effect: small families shrink more than larger families, and this reduces childlessness. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Population Economics.

Volume (Year): 26 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 963-982

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Handle: RePEc:spr:jopoec:v:26:y:2013:i:3:p:963-982

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Related research

Keywords: Fertility; Childlessness; Female labor-market participation; J11; J13; O11;

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  1. Agnese Vitali & Francesco C. Billari & Alexia Prskawetz & Maria Rita Testa, 2009. "Preference Theory and Low Fertility: A Comparative Perspective," European Demographic Research Papers 0702, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna.
  2. Letizia Mencarini & Maria Letizia Tanturri, 2006. "High Fertility or Childlessness: Micro-Level Determinants of Reproductive Behaviour in Italy," Population (english edition), Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED), vol. 61(4), pages 389-415.
  3. Doepke, Matthias & Hazan, Moshe & Maoz, Yishay D., 2007. "The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 3253, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Thomas Baudin & David De La Croix & Paula Gobbi, 2012. "DINKs, DEWKs & Co. Marriage, Fertility and Childlessness in the United States," Working Papers hal-00993307, HAL.
  5. David de la Croix & Matthias Doepke, 2003. "Inequality and Growth: Why Differential Fertility Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1091-1113, September.
  6. Maria Letizia Tanturri & Letizia Mencarini, 2008. "Childless or Childfree? Paths to Voluntary Childlessness in Italy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 34(1), pages 51-77.
  7. Jonathan Skinner, 1991. "Housing and Saving in the United States," NBER Working Papers 3874, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 2001. "The Economics of Cultural Transmission and the Dynamics of Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 298-319, April.
  9. Maurizio Mazzocco, 2007. "Household Intertemporal Behaviour: A Collective Characterization and a Test of Commitment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 857-895.
  10. Daron Acemoglu & David H. Autor & David Lyle, 2002. "Women, War and Wages: The Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Mid-Century," NBER Working Papers 9013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, September.
  12. Manser, Marilyn & Brown, Murray, 1980. "Marriage and Household Decision-Making: A Bargaining Analysis," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 21(1), pages 31-44, February.
  13. Galor, Oded & Weil, David N, 1996. "The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 374-87, June.
  14. McElroy, Marjorie B & Horney, Mary Jean, 1981. "Nash-Bargained Household Decisions: Toward a Generalization of the Theory of Demand," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 22(2), pages 333-49, June.
  15. O'Neill, June & Polachek, Solomon, 1993. "Why the Gender Gap in Wages Narrowed in the 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 205-28, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Thomas BAUDIN & David de la CROIX & Paula GOBBI, 2012. "DINKs, DEWKs & Co. Marriage, Fertility and Childlessness in the United States," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2012013, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).

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