IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Becker Fertility Model: Theory and Critique


  • Joseph Burke

    () (Department of Economics and Business, Ave Maria University)


This paper is an exploration of the theoretical properties of the Becker fertility model. I demonstrate that the comparative statics of the Becker fertility model with a general budget constraint and its corresponding expenditure model can be expressed in terms of the ordinary consumer expenditure function with a change of variable. When there are no fixed-costs of quality per child, the Becker fertility model is equivalent to the ordinary consumer model with restrictions on the form of the utility function. Solutions to the Becker fertility model are provided with the Cobb-Douglas, CES, and AIDS specifications under this assumption, Becker’s hypothesis that demand for quality per child increases with income is not valid under any Cobb-Douglas or CES specification, but can be tested with a valid estimation of the AIDS model. I also evaluate the role of fixed-costs of quality per child in Becker’s model and show that they introduce a third term into the Slutsky matrix, i.e. in addition to ordinary substitution and income effects, but that these effects are small when the average fixed costs of quality per child is small relative to the marginal cost of quality per child. When the Becker model is expressed in terms of children, quality, and other goods, children must be a substitute for either their quality or for other goods and either quality or other goods must be a luxury good.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph Burke, 2012. "The Becker Fertility Model: Theory and Critique," Working Papers 1201, Ave Maria University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:avm:wpaper:1201

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First version, 2012
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Deaton,Angus & Muellbauer,John, 1980. "Economics and Consumer Behavior," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521296762, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    microeconomic theory; Becker; fertility;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:avm:wpaper:1201. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joseph Burke). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.