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Re-Visiting the Easterlin Hypothesis: U.S. Fertility 1968-2010

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  • Macunovich, Diane J.

    ()
    (University of Redlands)

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    Abstract

    This study tests the effect of relative income – younger people's earning potential relative to their aspirations, as approximated by older families' income – on two measures of fertility: the proportion of women with an own child under one year of age, and the proportion of women with at least one own child under eighteen. The results are highly supportive of the Easterlin relative income hypothesis, finding a dominant negative effect of older family income that extends due to postponement effects even into groups 11-15 years out of school. Increases in older family income are found to account for 42% of the decline in the proportion of women with a newborn, and 37% of the decline in the proportion with at least one own child, among women 0-5 years out of school. In addition, the study finds a strong but changing effect of the female wage: positive among women 0-5 years out of school, although slowly declining over time, but negative among the older women with a dominant positive time trend that has produced a positive effect in the last decade. It is hypothesized that the observed pattern of increases in fertility among women with higher levels of education over the last decade has been a function of this emerging positive effect of the female wage, among older more educated women.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5885.

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    Length: 29 pages
    Date of creation: Jul 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5885

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    Keywords: fertility; relative income; relative cohort size; Easterlin hypothesis;

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    1. Yongil Jeon & Michael P. Shields, 2005. "The Easterlin hypothesis in the recent experience of higher-income OECD countries: A panel-data approach," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 1-13, 08.
    2. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2005. "Changes in the Labor Supply Behavior of Married Women: 1980-2000," NBER Working Papers 11230, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Welch, Finis, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages S65-97, October.
    4. Finis Welch, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," UCLA Economics Working Papers 146, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. Robert McNown & Sameer Rajbhandary, 2003. "Time series analysis of fertility and female labor market behavior," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 501-523, 08.
    6. Sevilla, Jaypee, 2007. "Fertility and relative cohort size," Arbetsrapport 2007:11, Institute for Futures Studies.
    7. Macunovich, Diane J., 1998. "Race and relative income/price of time effects on U.S. fertility," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 365-400.
    8. Olsen, Randall J, 1994. "Fertility and the Size of the U.S. Labor Force," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 60-100, March.
    9. Diane J. Macunovich, 1998. "Fertility and the Easterlin hypothesis: An assessment of the literature," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 53-111.
    10. Brigitte Waldorf & Rachel Franklin, 2002. "Spatial Dimensions of the Easterlin Hypothesis: Fertility Variations in Italy," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(3), pages 549-578.
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