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A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility

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  • Gary S. Becker
  • Robert J. Barro

Abstract

Altruistic parents choose fertility and consumption by maximizing a dynastic utility function. The maximization implies an arbitrage condition for consumption across generations, and equality between the benefit from an extra child and the child-rearing cost. These conditions imply that fertility in open economies depends positively on the world's long-term real interest rate, the degree of altruism, and the growth of child-survival probabilities; and negatively on the rate of technical progress and the growth rate of social security. The growth of per capita consumption across generations depends on changes in the child-rearing cost, but not on interest rates or time preference.

Suggested Citation

  • Gary S. Becker & Robert J. Barro, 1988. "A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(1), pages 1-25.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:103:y:1988:i:1:p:1-25.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.2307/1882640
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Sheshinski, Eytan & Weiss, Yoram, 1982. "Inequality within and between Families," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 105-127, February.
    3. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1976. "Child Endowments and the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 143-162, August.
    4. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    5. Behrman, Jere R & Pollak, Robert A & Taubman, Paul, 1982. "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 52-73, February.
    6. Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "Capital Taxation and Accumulation in a Life Cycle Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 533-544, September.
    7. Feldstein, Martin S, 1974. "Social Security, Induced Retirement, and Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 905-926, Sept./Oct.
    8. Razin, Assaf & Ben-Zion, Uri, 1975. "An Intergenerational Model of Population Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 923-933, December.
    9. Wildasin, David E, 1990. "Non-neutrality of Debt with Endogenous Fertility," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(2), pages 414-428, April.
    10. Robert J. Willis, "undated". "A Theory of the Equilibrium Interest Rate in an Overlapping Generations Model: Life Cycles, Institutions, and Population Growth," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 85-8, Chicago - Population Research Center.
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