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Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition

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  • Alan Fernihough

    () (Queen’s University Belfast)

Abstract

This paper provides an empirical test of the child quantity–quality (QQ) trade-off predicted by unified growth theory. Using individual census returns from the 1911 Irish census, we examine whether children who attended school were from smaller families—as predicted by a standard QQ model. To measure causal effects, we use a selection of models robust to endogeneity concerns which we validate for this application using an Empirical Monte Carlo analysis. Our results show that a child remaining in school between the ages of 14 and 16 caused up to a 27 % reduction in fertility. Our results are robust to alternative estimation techniques with different modeling assumptions, sample selection, and alternative definitions of fertility. These findings highlight the importance of the demographic transition as a mechanism which underpinned the expansion in human capital witnessed in Western economies during the twentieth century.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Fernihough, 2017. "Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 35-65, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:22:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10887-016-9138-3
    DOI: 10.1007/s10887-016-9138-3
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    2. Brian Beach & W. Walker Hanlon, 2019. "Censorship, Family Planning, and the Historical Fertility Transition," NBER Working Papers 25752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Marc Klemp & Jacob Weisdorf, 2019. "Fecundity, Fertility and The Formation of Human Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 129(618), pages 925-960.
    4. Ogasawara, Kota & Komura, Mizuki, 2020. "Consequences of War: Japan's Demographic Transition and the Marriage Market," IZA Discussion Papers 13885, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. de la Croix, David & Perrin, Faustine, 2018. "How far can economic incentives explain the French fertility and education transition?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 221-245.
    6. David de la Croix & Faustine Perrin, 2016. "French Fertility and Education Transition: Rational Choice vs. Cultural Diffusion," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2016007, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    7. Raffaella Coppier & Fabio Sabatini & Mauro Sodini, 2018. "Social capital, human capital and fertility," EERI Research Paper Series EERI RP 2018/04, Economics and Econometrics Research Institute (EERI), Brussels.
    8. Fernihough, Alan & Ó Gráda, Cormac, 2019. "Across the sea to Ireland: Return Atlantic migration before the First World War," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2019-08, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    9. Kubitza, Christoph & Gehrke, Esther, 2018. "Why does a labor-saving technology decrease fertility rates? Evidence from the oil palm boom in Indonesia," EFForTS Discussion Paper Series 22, University of Goettingen, Collaborative Research Centre 990 "EFForTS, Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (Sumatra, Indonesia)".
    10. Aso, Hiroki, 2020. "Demographic transition and Economic development : the role of child costs," MPRA Paper 99966, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Madsen, Jakob Brøchner & Strulik, Holger, 2020. "Testing unified growth theory: Technological progress and the child quantity-quality tradeoff," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 393, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    12. Rahil ASADI & Gabriel Octavian MARIN, 2019. "How Globalization Influences the Developing Countries' Human Resources Strategic Policy," Journal of Economic Development, Environment and People, Alliance of Central-Eastern European Universities, vol. 8(3), pages 32-46, September.
    13. Chen, Nana & Xu, Hangtian, 2021. "Why has the birth rate relatively increased in China's wealthy cities?," MPRA Paper 105960, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Xiong, Xianfang & Deng, Lanfang & Li, Hongyi, 2020. "Is winning at the start important: Early childhood family cognitive stimulation and child development," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 118(C).
    15. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2019. "Economic History: «An Isthmus Joining Two Great Continents»?," Rivista di storia economica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 1, pages 81-120.
    16. Manoel Bittencourt, 2018. "Primary education and fertility rates : Evidence from Southern Africa," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 26(2), pages 283-302, April.
    17. Fernihough, Alan, 2017. "Less is More? The child quantity-quality trade-off in early 20th century England and Wales," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-07, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Quantity–quality; Human capital; Demographic transition; Unified growth theory;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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