Household bargaining over fertility: Theory and evidence from Malaysia
We develop and test a model of household bargaining over fertility when transfers between spouses are possible. The model makes precise how the fertility preferences of each spouse translate into fertility outcomes. We show this depends on whether or not spouses can commit to their future actions within marriage. If couples bargain with commitment, fertility outcomes take account of both spouses' fertility preferences and do not depend on the threat point in marital bargaining. If couples bargain without commitment, the influence of each spouse's fertility preference on fertility outcomes depends on the relevant threat point in marital bargaining, and the distribution of bargaining power. We test the models using household data from the Malaysia Family Life Survey. This data set contains information on each spouse's desired fertility level, as well as fertility outcomes. We exploit differences in threat points in marital bargaining across ethnic groups to help identify the underlying bargaining model. The evidence suggests couples bargain without commitment.
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