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Childless Aristocrats. Inheritance and the Extensive Margin of Fertility

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  • Paula Eugenia Gobbi
  • Marc Goñi

Abstract

We provide new evidence on the two-way link between fertility decisions on the extensive margin and inheritance. We focus on settlements, a popular inheritance scheme among British aristocrats that combined primogeniture and a one-generation entail of the family estates. Using peerage records (1650-1882), we find that settlements affected the extensive margin of fertility: they reduced childlessness rates by 14.7 pp. ensuring the survival of aristocratic dynasties. Since settlements were signed only if the family head survived until his heir's wedding, we establish causality by exploiting variation in the heirs birth order. Next, we show that the extensive margin of fertility can shape inheritance rules. We build a model with inter-generational hyperbolic discounting where inheritance rules affect fertility and, in turn, schemes restricting successors (e.g. settlements or trusts) emerge endogenously in response to concerns over the dynasty's survival. These results highlight the importance of fertility decisions for the analysis of inheritance.

Suggested Citation

  • Paula Eugenia Gobbi & Marc Goñi, 2020. "Childless Aristocrats. Inheritance and the Extensive Margin of Fertility," Working Papers ECARES 2020-03, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/301845
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Edward Wolff & Maury Gittleman, 2014. "Inheritances and the distribution of wealth or whatever happened to the great inheritance boom?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 12(4), pages 439-468, December.
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    5. Sandra Brée & David de la Croix, 2019. "Key forces behind the decline of fertility: lessons from childlessness in Rouen before the industrial revolution," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 13(1), pages 25-54, January.
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    8. Wigniolle, Bertrand, 2013. "Fertility in the absence of self-control," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 71-86.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Childlessness; Elites; Fertility; Inheritance; Inter-generational discounting; Settlement;
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