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Maternal Health and the Baby Boom

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  • Albanesi, Stefania
  • Olivetti, Claudia

Abstract

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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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7925.

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Date of creation: Jul 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7925

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Keywords: Baby boom; Fertility choice; Human capital; Maternal mortality;

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References

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  1. 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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Vandenbroucke, Guillaume, 2011. "Optimal fertility during World War I," MPRA Paper 35709, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. 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.
  8. Curtis Simon & Robert Tamura, 2010. "Secular Fertility Declines, Baby Booms and Economic Growth: International Evidence," 2010 Meeting Papers 1041, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. 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.
  10. Shannon Seitz & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Satoshi Tanaka, 2013. "Sex Ratios and Long-Term Marriage Trends," 2013 Meeting Papers 1349, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. 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).

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