Birthing a Nation: The Effect of Fertility Control Access on the 19th Century Demographic Transition
AbstractDuring the 19th century, the US birthrate fell by half. While previous economic literature has emphasized demand-side explanations for this decline—that rising land prices and literacy caused a decrease in demand for children—historians and others have emphasized changes in the supply of technologies to control fertility, including abortion and birth control. In this paper I exploit the introduction during the 19th century of state laws governing American women’s access to abortion to measure the effect of changes in the supply of fertility technologies on the number of children born. I estimate an increase in the birthrate of 4 to 12% when abortion is restricted, which lies within the ranges of estimates found for the effect of fertility control supply restrictions on birthrates today. The importance of legal abortion in reducing 19th-century birthrates helps to account for a previously unexplained portion of the demographic transition. This paper posits that there has long been a demand, often unmet, for fertility control that should be considered in future demographic research as well as in policy formulation.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18717.
Date of creation: Jan 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Economic History, Forthcoming.
Note: AG CH DAE
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Find related papers by JEL classification:
- J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
- J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
- K3 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law
- N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-01-26 (All new papers)
- NEP-DEM-2013-01-26 (Demographic Economics)
- NEP-HIS-2013-01-26 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
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