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Protectionism and the Education-Fertility Trade-off in Late 19th Century France

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Abstract

The assumption that education and fertility are endogenous decisions that react to economic circumstances is a cornerstone of the unified growth theory that explains the transition to modern economic growth, yet evidence that such a mechanism was in operation before the 20th century is limited. This paper provides evidence of how protectionism reversed the education and fertility trends that were well under way in late 19th-century France. The Méline tariff, a tariff on cereals introduced in 1892, led to a substantial increase in agricultural wages, thus reducing the relative return to education. Since the importance of cereal production varied across regions, we use these differences to estimate the impact of the tariff. Our findings indicate that the tariff reduced education and increased fertility. The magnitude of these effects was substantial, and in regions with large shares of employment in cereal production the tariff offset the time trend in education for up to 15 years. Our results thus indicate that even in the 19th century, policies that changed the economic prospects of their offspring affected parents’ decisions about the quantity and quality of children.

Suggested Citation

  • Vincent Bignon & Cecilia Garcia-Peñalosa, 2016. "Protectionism and the Education-Fertility Trade-off in Late 19th Century France," AMSE Working Papers 1604, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, Marseille, France, revised Jan 2016.
  • Handle: RePEc:aim:wpaimx:1604
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    Cited by:

    1. Ager, Philipp & Brueckner, Markus & Herz, Benedikt, 2017. "Structural Change and the Fertility Transition in the American South," Discussion Papers of Business and Economics 6/2017, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Business and Economics.
    2. David de la Croix & Faustine Perrin, 2016. "French Fertility and Education Transition: Rational Choice vs. Cultural Diffusion," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2016007, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Education; Fertility; Unified growth theory; Protectionism; France;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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