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Structural Change and the Fertility Transition in the American South

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  • Philipp Ager
  • Markus Brueckner
  • Benedikt Herz

Abstract

This paper provides new insights on the link between structural change and the fertility transi-tion. In the early 1890s agricultural production in the American South was severely impaired by the spread of an agricultural pest, the boll weevil. We use this plausibly exogenous variation in agricultural production to establish a causal link between changes in earnings opportunities in agriculture and fertility. Our estimates show that lower earnings opportunities in agriculture lead to fewer children. We identify two channels: households staying in agriculture reduced fertility because children are a normal good, and households switching to manufacturing faced higher opportunity costs of raising children. The lower earnings opportunities in agriculture also stimulated human capital formation, which we argue is consistent with the predictions of a quantity-quality model of fertility.

Suggested Citation

  • Philipp Ager & Markus Brueckner & Benedikt Herz, 2018. "Structural Change and the Fertility Transition in the American South," CEH Discussion Papers 01, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:auu:hpaper:062
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    File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/CEH/WP201801.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Philipp Ager & Benedikt Herz & Markus Brueckner, 2020. "Structural Change and the Fertility Transition," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 102(4), pages 806-822, October.
    2. Kawalec Paweł, 2020. "The dynamics of theories of economic growth: An impact of Unified Growth Theory," Economics and Business Review, Sciendo, vol. 6(2), pages 19-44, June.
    3. 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)".
    4. Karen Clay & Ethan J. Schmick & Werner Troesken, 2020. "The Boll Weevil’s Impact on Racial Income Gaps in the Early Twentieth Century," NBER Working Papers 27101, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fertility Transition; Structural Change; Industrialization; Agricultural Income;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology

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