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Relative Cohort Size: Source of a Unifying Theory of Global Fertility Transition?

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  • Diane J. Macunovich

Abstract

Using United Nations estimates of age structure and vital rates for 184 countries at five-year intervals from 1950 through 1995, this article demonstrates how changes in relative cohort size appear to have affected patterns of fertility across countries since 1950-not just in developed countries, but perhaps even more importantly in developing countries as they pass through the demographic transition. The increase in relative cohort size (defined as the proportion of males aged 15-24 relative to males aged 25-59), which occurs as a result of declining mortality rates among infants, children, and young adults during the demographic transition, appears to act as the mechanism that determines when the fertility portion of the transition begins. As hypothesized by Richard Easterlin, the increasing proportion of young adults generates a downward pressure on young men's relative wages (or on the size of landhold-ings passed on from parent to child), which in turn causes young adults to accept a tradeoff between family size and material wellbeing, setting in motion a "cascade" or "snowball" effect in which total fertility rates tumble as social norms regarding acceptable family sizes begin to change. Copyright 2000 by The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Diane J. Macunovich, 2000. "Relative Cohort Size: Source of a Unifying Theory of Global Fertility Transition?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 26(2), pages 235-261.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:26:y:2000:i:2:p:235-261
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    File URL: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1728-4457.2000.00235.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Diane J. Macunovich, 1999. "The fortunes of one's birth: Relative cohort size and the youth labor market in the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 12(2), pages 215-272.
    2. Macunovich, D.J., 1996. "Relative Income and Price of Time: Exploring their effcts on U.S. Fertility and Female Labor Force Participation, 1963-1993," Department of Economics Working Papers 174, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    3. 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.
    4. Diane J. Macunovich, 1998. "Fertility and the Easterlin hypothesis: An assessment of the literature," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 11(1), pages 53-111.
    5. Sanders Korenman & David Neumark, 2000. "Cohort Crowding and Youth Labor Markets (A Cross-National Analysis)," NBER Chapters,in: Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries, pages 57-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Diane Macunovich, 1999. "The Baby Boom As It Ages: How Has It Affected Patterns of Consumptions and Savings in the United States?," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 7, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Baby booms and busts: how population growth spurts affect the economy
      by Diane J Macunovich, Professor of Economics at University of Redlands in The Conversation on 2015-09-08 15:11:42

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    Cited by:

    1. Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "Mortality Reductions, Educational Attainment, and Fertility Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 580-601, June.
    2. Yongil Jeon & Sang-Young Rhyu & Michael P. Shields, 2007. "Asian Demographic Transition: An Instrumental-Variables Panel Approach," Monash Economics Working Papers 28-07, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    3. Anna Sibilla Francesca DE PAOLI, 2010. "The effect of schooling on fertility, labor market participation and children’s outcomes, evidence from Ecuador," Departmental Working Papers 2010-30, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    4. Cynthia B. Lloyd, 2001. "World population in 2050: assessing the projections: discussion," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 46.
    5. Domingues, Patrick, 2011. "Civil War Exposure And School Enrolment:Evidence From The Mozambican Civil War," NEPS Working Papers 1/2011, Network of European Peace Scientists.
    6. Jona Schellekens & Frans Poppel, 2012. "Marital Fertility Decline in the Netherlands: Child Mortality, Real Wages, and Unemployment, 1860–1939," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(3), pages 965-988, August.

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    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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