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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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References

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  1. Gary S. Becker & Robert J. Barro, . "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 85-11, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  2. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2005. "The Baby Boom and Baby Bust," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 183-207, March.
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  5. John Knowles, 2006. "Why are Married Men Working So Much?," 2006 Meeting Papers 445, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  8. Claudia Olivetti & Stefania Albanesi, 2010. "Maternal Health and the Baby Boom," 2010 Meeting Papers 85, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Larry E. Jones & Alice Schoonbroodt & Michèle Tertilt, 2010. "Fertility Theories: Can They Explain the Negative Fertility-Income Relationship?," NBER Chapters, in: Demography and the Economy, pages 43-100 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Oded Galor, 2006. "The Demographic Transition," Working Papers 2006-24, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  11. Ellen R. M cG rattan & Lee E. Ohanian, 2010. "Does Neoclassical Theory Account For The Effects Of Big Fiscal Shocks? Evidence From World War Ii," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(2), pages 509-532, 05.
  12. Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ananth Seshadri, 2009. "Explaining International Fertility Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 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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