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Fecundity, Fertility and Family Reconstitution Data: The Child Quantity-Quality Trade-O Revisite

  • Klemp, Marc P B
  • Weisdorf, Jacob

Growth theorists have recently argued that western nations grew rich by parents substituting child quantity (number of births) for child quality (education). Using family reconstitution data from historical England, we explore the causal link between family size and human capital of offspring measured by their literacy status and professional skills. We use a proxy of marital fecundity to instrument family size, finding that children of couples of low fecundity (and hence small families) were more likely to become literate and employed in a skilled profession than those born to couples of high fecundity (and hence large families). Robust to a variety of specifications, our findings are unusually supportive of the notion of a child quantity-quality trade-off, suggesting this could well have played a key role for the wealth of nations.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9121.

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Date of creation: Sep 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9121
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  1. Cinnirella, Francesco & Klemp, Marc P B & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2012. "Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England," CEPR Discussion Papers 9116, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  12. 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.
  13. Nina Boberg-Fazlic & Paul Sharp & Jacob Weisdorf, 2011. "Survival of the Richest? Social Status, Fertility, and Social Mobility in England 1541-1824," Discussion Papers 11-02, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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