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The Child is Father Of the Man: Implications for the Demographic Transition

  • David de la Croix
  • Omar Licandro

We propose a new theory of the demographic transition based on the evidence that body development during childhood is an important factor for life expectancy. The key and novel mechanism of the model is that parents face a tradeoff between the quantity of children and the childhood development spending they afford on each of them. It is in this sense that we refer to Wordsworth’s aphorism that “The (Father of) Child is the Father of Man.” This tradeoff makes life expectancy and fertility move in opposite direction. Along these lines, we propose a continuous time model where fertility, childhood development, longevity, education and income growth result all from individual decisions. The dynamics display the key features of the demographic transition, including the hump in population growth, and replicate the observed rise in educational attainments and life expectancy. Consistent with the empirical evidence, a distinctive implication of our theory is that childhood development leads the rise in education.

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Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 123 (2013)
Issue (Month): 567 (03)
Pages: 236-261

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:123:y:2013:i:567:p:236-261
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