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The Effect of Investment in Children's Education on Fertility in 1816 Prussia

  • Sascha O. Becker
  • Francesco Cinnirella


  • Ludger Woessmann

The interaction between investment in children’s education and parental fertility is crucial in recent theories of the transition from Malthusian stagnation to modern economic growth. This paper contributes to the literature on the child quantity-quality trade-off with new county-level evidence for Prussia in 1816, several decades before the demographic transition. We find a significant negative causal effect of education on fertility, which is robust to accounting for spatial autocorrelation. The causal effect of education is identified through exogenous variation in enrollment rates due to differences in landownership inequality. A comparison with estimates for 1849 suggests that the preference for quality relative to quantity might have increased during the first half of the nineteenth century.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3252.

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Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3252
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  1. Oded Galor, 2004. "The Demographic Transition and the Emergence of Sustained Economic Growth," GE, Growth, Math methods 0409005, EconWPA.
  2. Ronald Lee, 2003. "The Demographic Transition: Three Centuries of Fundamental Change," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 167-190, Fall.
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  4. Matteo Cervellati & Uwe Sunde, 2005. "Human Capital Formation, Life Expectancy, and the Process of Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1653-1672, December.
  5. Jack A. Goldstone, 2007. "Jack Goldstone on Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 8(3), pages 207-225, July.
  6. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 150-154, May.
  7. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2010. "The Effect of Protestantism on Education before the Industrialization: Evidence from 1816 Prussia," CESifo Working Paper Series 2910, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. Hoyt Bleakley & Fabian Lange, 2009. "Chronic Disease Burden and the Interaction of Education, Fertility, and Growth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 52-65, February.
  9. Becker, Sascha & Francesco, Cinirella & Woessmann, Ludger, 2009. "The Trade-off between Fertility and Education: Evidence from before the Demographic Transition," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2009-17, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
  10. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2009. "Inequality in Landownership, the Emergence of Human-Capital Promoting Institutions, and the Great Divergence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 143-179.
  11. Matthias Doepke, 2002. "Child Mortality and Fertility Decline: Does the Barro-Becker Model Fit the Facts?," UCLA Economics Working Papers 824, UCLA Department of Economics.
  12. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2005. "Natural Selection and the Evolution of Life Expectancy," CEPR Discussion Papers 5373, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Hartog,Joop & Maassen van den Brink,Henriëtte (ed.), 2009. "Human Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521117562.
  14. Becker, Sascha O. & Hornung, Erik & Wößmann, Ludger, 2011. "Education and catch-up in the industrial revolution," Munich Reprints in Economics 20261, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  15. Tommy Bengtsson & Martin Dribe, 2006. "Deliberate control in a natural fertility population: Southern Sweden, 1766–1864," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(4), pages 727-746, November.
  16. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2008. "Luther and the Girls: Religious Denomination and the Female Education Gap in 19th Century Prussia," CESifo Working Paper Series 2414, CESifo Group Munich.
  17. Becker, Sascha O. & Cinnirella, Francesco & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "Does Parental Education Affect Fertility? Evidence from Pre-Demographic Transition Prussia," CEPR Discussion Papers 8339, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  18. Galor, Oded, 2004. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 4581, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  19. Crafts, Nicholas, 1988. "Duration of Marriage, Fertility and Female Employment Opportunities in England and Wales in 1911," CEPR Discussion Papers 252, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
    [A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  21. Cervellati, Matteo & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Human Capital, Mortality and Fertility: A Unified Theory of the Economic and Demographic Transition," IZA Discussion Papers 2905, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  22. repec:oup:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:4:p:1133-1191 is not listed on IDEAS
  23. John C. Brown & Timothy W. Guinnane, 2007. "Regions and time in the European fertility transition: problems in the Princeton Project's statistical methodology -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(3), pages 574-595, 08.
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