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Did Improvements in Household Technology Cause the Baby Boom? Evidence from Electrification, Appliance Diffusion, and the Amish

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  • Martha J. Bailey
  • William J. Collins

Abstract

More than a half century after its peak, the baby boom’s causes remain a puzzle. A new argument posits that rapid advancements in household technology from 1940 to 1960 account for this large increase in fertility. We present new empirical evidence that is inconsistent with this claim. Rapid advances in household technology began long before 1940 while fertility declined; differences and changes in appliance ownership and electrification in U.S. counties are negatively correlated with fertility rates from 1940 to 1960; and the correlation between children ever born (measured at ages 41 to 60) and access to electrical service in early adulthood is negative for the relevant cohorts of women. Moreover, the Amish, a group strictly limiting the use of modern household technologies, experienced a sizable and coincident baby boom. A final section reconciles this evidence with economic theory by allowing households to have utility over home-produced commodities that are substitutes for the number of children.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14641.

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Date of creation: Jan 2009
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Publication status: published as 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.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14641

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Cited by:
  1. Claudia Olivetti & Stefania Albanesi, 2010. "Maternal Health and the Baby Boom," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series, Boston University - Department of Economics WP2010-044, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  2. Taryn Dinkelman, 2011. "The Effects of Rural Electrification on Employment: New Evidence from South Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3078-3108, December.
  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. Kohlin, Gunnar & Sills, Erin O. & Pattanayak, Subhrendu K. & Wilfong, Christopher, 2011. "Energy, gender and development: what are the linkages ? where is the evidence ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5800, The World Bank.
  5. Rosamaría Dasso & Fernando Fernandez, 2013. "The Effects of Electrification on Employment in Rural Peru," CEDLAS, Working Papers, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata 0150, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
  6. Tamura, Robert & Simon, Curtis J., 2012. "Secular fertility declines, baby booms and economic growth: international evidence," MPRA Paper 41669, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. repec:hka:wpaper:2013-03 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Grimm, Michael & Sparrow, Robert & Tasciotti, Luca, 2014. "Does Electrification Spur the Fertility Transition? Evidence from Indonesia," IZA Discussion Papers 8146, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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