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Fecundity, Fertility and the Formation of Human Capital

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  • Klemp, Marc

    (Brown University)

  • Weisdorf, Jacob

    (University of Southern Denmark)

Abstract

This research explores a fundamental cause of variation in human capital formation across families in the pre-modern period, as well as the mitigating effects of family-level economic prosperity. Exploiting a vast genealogy of English individuals in the 17th to the 19th centuries, the study proposes and tests the hypothesis that lower parental reproductive capacity positively affected the socioeconomic achievements of offspring. In particular, the research establishes an e↵ect of reproductive capacity on offspring human capital in the pre-modern era. Using the time interval between the date of marriage and the first birth as a measure of reproductive capacity, the research establishes that children of parents with lower fecundity were more likely to become literate and employed in skilled and high-wealth professions. The analysis finds that parental fecundity significantly affected the number of siblings, indicating that a trade-off between child quantity and quality was present in England during the industrial revolution and supporting leading theories of the origins of modern economic growth. Furthermore, it finds that the effect was weaker for the socioeconomic elite, who could offset the cost of additional children by raising total investment in offspring human capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Klemp, Marc & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2016. "Fecundity, Fertility and the Formation of Human Capital," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 296, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:296
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    Cited by:

    1. Quamrul H. Ashraf & Oded Galor & Marc P. B. Klemp, 2020. "The Ancient Origins of the Wealth of Nations," CESifo Working Paper Series 8624, CESifo.
    2. Claude Diebolt & Tapas Mishra & Faustine Perrin, 2019. "Gender Equality as an Enforcer of Individuals’ Choice between Education and Fertility: Evidence from 19th Century France," Working Papers 12-19, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    3. James Foreman-Peck & Peng Zhou, 2021. "Fertility versus productivity: a model of growth with evolutionary equilibria," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 34(3), pages 1073-1104, July.
    4. Sandra Brée & David de la Croix, 2019. "Key forces behind the decline of fertility: lessons from childlessness in Rouen before the industrial revolution," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 13(1), pages 25-54, January.
    5. Battaglia, Marianna & Chabé-Ferret, Bastien & Lebedinski, Lara, 2021. "Segregation, fertility, and son preference: the case of the Roma in Serbia," Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 87(2), pages 233-260, June.
    6. Nicholas Ford & Kristin Ranestad & Paul Sharp, 2021. "Leaving Their Mark: Using Danish Student Grade Lists to Construct a More Detailed Measure of Historical Human Capital," Working Papers 0207, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    7. Horrell, Sara & Humphries, Jane & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2020. "Malthus's missing women and children: demography and wages in historical perspective, England 1280-1850," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    8. Billington, Stephen D., 2021. "What explains patenting behaviour during Britain’s Industrial Revolution?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).
    9. Aaronson, Daniel & Dehejia, Rajeev & Jordon, Andrew & Pop-Eleches, Cristian & Samii, Cyrus & Schultze, Karl, 2017. "The Effect of Fertility on Mothers’ Labor Supply over the Last Two Centuries," MPRA Paper 76768, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Alan Fernihough, 2017. "Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 35-65, March.
    11. Fernihough, Alan, 2017. "Less is More? The child quantity-quality trade-off in early 20th century England and Wales," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-07, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    12. Francesco Cinnirella & Marc Klemp & Jacob Weisdorf, 2019. "Further Evidence of Within-Marriage Fertility Control in Pre-Transitional England," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 56(4), pages 1557-1572, August.
    13. Oded Galor & Marc Klemp, 2019. "Human Genealogy Reveals a Selective Advantage to Moderate Fecundity," Working Papers 2019-1, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    14. Henry Laverde-Rojas & Juan C Correa & Klaus Jaffe & Mario I Caicedo, 2019. "Are average years of education losing predictive power for economic growth? An alternative measure through structural equations modeling," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(3), pages 1-21, March.
    15. Nicholas Ford & Kristin Ranestad & Paul Sharp, 2022. "Leaving Their Mark: Using Danish Student Grade Lists to Construct a More Detailed Measure of Historical Human Capital," Rivista di storia economica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 1, pages 29-56.
    16. Diebolt, Claude & Mishra, Tapas & Perrin, Faustine, 2021. "Gender empowerment as an enforcer of individuals’ choice between education and fertility: Evidence from 19th century France," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 188(C), pages 408-438.

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    Keywords

    Human Capital Formation; Child Quantity-Quality Trade-Off; Reproductive Capacity; Fecundity; Demographic Transition; Long-Run Economic Growth JEL Classification: J13; N30; O10;
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