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Optimal fertility during World War I

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  • Vandenbroucke, Guillaume

Abstract

During World War I (1914–1918) the birth rates of countries such as France, Germany, the U.K., Belgium and Italy declined by almost 50 percent. The age structure of these countries’ populations were significantly affected for the duration of the 20th century. In France, where the population was 40 millions in 1914, the deficit of births is estimated to 1.36 millions over 4 years while military losses are estimated at 1.4 millions. In short, the fertility decline doubled the demographic impact of the War. Why did fertility decline so much? The conventional wisdom is that fertility fell below its optimal level because of the absence of men gone to war. I challenge this view using the case of France. I construct and calibrate a model of optimal fertility choice where households reaching their childbearing years on the eve of WWI face a loss of husband’s income during the War as well as an increase in the probability that the wife remains alone after the War. I calibrate this probability using the casualties sustained by the French army. The model accounts for 97% of the fertility decline even though it does not feature any physical separations of couples. It also accounts for no less than half of the increase in fertility after the War, and generates a temporary increase in the age at birth as observed in the French data. This effect of the War on the optimal level of fertility is robust to alternative calibrations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 35709.

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Date of creation: Dec 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:35709

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Keywords: Fertility ; war ; growth ; uncertainty;

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  1. John Knowles, 2005. "Why are Married Men Working So Much?," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-031, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  2. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2002. "The Baby Boom and Baby Bust," Economie d'Avant Garde Research Reports, Economie d'Avant Garde 1, Economie d'Avant Garde.
  3. Gary S. Becker & Robert J. Barro, 1986. "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," NBER Working Papers 1793, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Larry E. Jones & Alice Schoonbroodt & Michèle Tertilt, 2008. "Fertility Theories: Can They Explain the Negative Fertility-Income Relationship?," NBER Working Papers 14266, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Matthias Doepke & Moshe Hazan & Yishay Maoz, 2007. "The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis," NBER Working Papers 13707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Ran Abramitzky & Adeline Delavande & Luis Vasconcelos, 2011. "Marrying Up: The Role of Sex Ratio in Assortative Matching," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 124-57, July.
  7. Oded Galor, 2006. "The Demographic Transition," Working Papers 2006-24, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  8. Albanesi, Stefania & Olivetti, Claudia, 2010. "Maternal Health and the Baby Boom," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 7925, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Ellen R. McGrattan & Lee E. Ohanian, 2008. "Does neoclassical theory account for the effects of big fiscal shocks? Evidence from World War II," Staff Report, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis 315, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  10. 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.
  11. Michael Bar & Oksana Leukhina, 2010. "Demographic Transition and Industrial Revolution: A Macroeconomic Investigation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(2), pages 424-451, April.
  12. Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ananth Seshadri, 2009. "Explaining International Fertility Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 771-807, May.
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  1. About fertility declines in wars
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2012-01-27 15:31:00

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