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The trade-off between fertility and education: evidence from before the demographic transition

  • Sascha Becker


  • Francesco Cinnirella
  • Ludger Woessmann

The trade-off between child quantity and education is a crucial ingredient of unified growth models that explain the transition from Malthusian stagnation to modern growth. We present first evidence that such a trade-off indeed existed before the demographic transition, exploiting a unique census-based dataset of 334 Prussian counties in 1849. Estimating two separate instrumental-variable models that instrument education by landownership inequality and distance to Wittenberg and fertility by previous-generation fertility and sex-imbalance ratio, we find that causation between fertility and education runs both ways. Furthermore, education in 1849 predicts the fertility transition in 1880-1905.

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Economic Growth.

Volume (Year): 15 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 177-204

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:15:y:2010:i:3:p:177-204
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