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Maternal Health and the Baby Boom

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  • Stefania Albanesi

    ()
    (Federal Reserve Bank of New York and CEPR)

  • Claudia Olivetti

    ()
    (Boston University and NBER)

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 relative to previous cohorts, and with a decline in fertility for women born in 1941-1950 relative to those born in 1921-1940. 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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File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Albanesi_Olivetti_2013_maternal-health-baby-boom.pdf
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Paper provided by Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group in its series Working Papers with number 2013-003.

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Date of creation: May 2013
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Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2013-003

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

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  1. Doepke, Matthias & Hazan, Moshe & Maoz, Yishay D, 2008. "The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 6628, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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Cited by:
  1. Salcedo, Alejandrina & Schoellman, Todd & Tertilt, Michèle, 2009. "Families as Roommates: Changes in U.S. Household Size from 1850 to 2000," CEPR Discussion Papers 7543, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Shannon Seitz & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Satoshi Tanaka, 2013. "Sex Ratios and Long-Term Marriage Trends," 2013 Meeting Papers 1349, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Larry E. Jones & Alice Schoonbroodt, 2010. "Baby Busts and Baby Booms: The Fertility Response to Shocks in Dynastic Models," NBER Working Papers 16596, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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).
  7. Curtis Simon & Robert Tamura, 2010. "Secular Fertility Declines, Baby Booms and Economic Growth: International Evidence," 2010 Meeting Papers 1041, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Vandenbroucke, Guillaume, 2011. "Optimal fertility during World War I," MPRA Paper 35709, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  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. 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).
  11. 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.

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