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Maternal Health and the Baby Boom

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  • Claudia Olivetti

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Boston University)

  • Stefania Albanesi

    ()
    (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)

Abstract

U.S. fertility rose from a low of 2.27 children for women born in 1908 to a peak of 3.21 children for women born in 1932. It dropped to a new low of 1.74 children for women born in 1949, before stabilizing for subsequent cohorts. We propose a novel explanation for this boom-bust pattern, linking it to the huge improvements in maternal health that started in the mid 1930s. Our hypothesis is that the improvements in maternal health contributed to the mid-twentieth century baby boom and generated a rise in women's human capital, ultimately leading to a decline in desired fertility for subsequent cohorts. To examine this link empirically, we exploit the large cross-state variation in the magnitude of the decline in pregnancy-related mortality and the differential exposure by cohort. We find that the decline in maternal mortality is associated with a rise in fertility for women born between 1921 and 1940, with a rise in college and high school graduation rates for women born in 1933-1950, and with a decline in fertility for women born in 1941-1950. These findings are consistent with a theory of fertility featuring a trade-off between the quality and quantity of children. The analysis provides new insights on the determinants of fertility in the U.S. and other countries that experienced similar improvements in maternal health.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Boston University - Department of Economics in its series Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number WP2010-044.

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Length: pages
Date of creation: Jan 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bos:wpaper:wp2010-044

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References

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  1. 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).
  2. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1, October.
  3. Moehling, Carolyn M. & Thomasson, Melissa A., 2012. "The Political Economy of Saving Mothers and Babies: The Politics of State Participation in the Sheppard-Towner Program," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(01), pages 75-103, March.
  4. David Cutler & Angus Deaton & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2005. "The Determinants of Mortality," Working Papers 164, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
  5. Hoyt Bleakley, 2007. "Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 73-117, 02.
  6. Katz, Lawrence & Goldin, Claudia, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women’s Career and Marriage Decisions," Scholarly Articles 2624453, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  8. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 133-156, Fall.
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  12. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2000. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," NBER Working Papers 7527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Fernando Alvarez, 1999. "Social Mobility: The Barro-Becker Children Meet the Laitner-Loury Dynasties," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(1), pages 65-103, January.
  14. Martha J. Bailey & William J. Collins, 2011. "Did Improvements in Household Technology Cause the Baby Boom? Evidence from Electrification, Appliance Diffusion, and the Amish," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 189-217, April.
  15. Larry E. Jones & Alice Schoonbroodt, 2007. "Complements versus Substitutes and Trends in Fertility Choice in Dynastic Models," NBER Working Papers 13680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Seema Jayachandran & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2009. "Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence from Maternal Mortality Declines-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 349-397, February.
  17. Goldin, Claudia D, 1991. "The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 741-56, September.
  18. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2009. "Gender Roles and Medical Progress," NBER Working Papers 14873, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Hoyt Bleakley & Fabian Lange, 2009. "Chronic Disease Burden and the Interaction of Education, Fertility, and Growth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 52-65, February.
  20. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2002. "The Baby Boom and Baby Bust," Economie d'Avant Garde Research Reports 1, Economie d'Avant Garde.
  21. Rick Geddes & Dean Lueck, 2002. "The Gains From Self-Ownership and the Expansion of Women's Rights," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1079-1092, September.
  22. Thomasson, Melissa A. & Treber, Jaret, 2008. "From home to hospital: The evolution of childbirth in the United States, 1928-1940," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 76-99, January.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2011. "Measurement Without Theory: A Response to Bailey and Collins," RCER Working Papers 561, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Hansen, Casper Worm, 2013. "Life expectancy and human capital: Evidence from the international epidemiological transition," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 1142-1152.
  3. Vandenbroucke, Guillaume, 2011. "Optimal fertility during World War I," MPRA Paper 35709, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Alice Schoonbroodt & Larry E. Jones, 2010. "Baby Busts and Baby Booms: The Fertility Response to Shocks in Dynastic Models," 2010 Meeting Papers 144, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Alejandrina Salcedo & Todd Schoellman & Michèle Tertilt, 2010. "Families as Roommates: Changes in U.S. Household Size from 1850 to 2000," Working Papers 2010-07, Banco de México.
  6. Dora Costa, 2013. "Health and the Economy in the United States, from 1750 to the Present," NBER Working Papers 19685, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Alejandrina Salcedo & Todd Schoellman & Michèle Tertilt, 2009. "Families as Roommates: Changes in U.S. Household Size from 1850 to 2000," NBER Working Papers 15477, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Casper Worm Hansen, 2012. "Causes of mortality and development: Evidence from large health shocks in 20th century America," Economics Working Papers 2012-29, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  9. Lehmijoki, Ulla & Palokangas, Tapio K., 2011. "The Long-Run Effects of Mortality Decline in Developing Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 5422, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Curtis Simon & Robert Tamura, 2010. "Secular Fertility Declines, Baby Booms and Economic Growth: International Evidence," 2010 Meeting Papers 1041, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. Tamura, Robert & Simon, Curtis & Murphy, Kevin M., 2012. "Black and White Fertility, Differential Baby Booms: The Value of Civil Rights," MPRA Paper 40921, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. Shannon Seitz & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Satoshi Tanaka, 2013. "Sex Ratios and Long-Term Marriage Trends," 2013 Meeting Papers 1349, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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