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Testing for a Supply Constraint to Fertility: Interpreting the Up to God Response to the Survey Question on Desired Family Size


  • Nistha Sinha


The paper outlines a methodology that allows us to determine whether couples. fertility is supply constrained based on the response they give to the subjective desired family size question. The central idea of the paper is that, when faced with the desired family size question, both constrained and unconstrained couples compare their demand for children with knowledge of their biological supply and unconstrained couples respond with a number while constrained couples respond with a qualitative response such as, "It is Up to God" (UTG), that essentially conveys the notion of demanding as many children as the supply function can yield. I then test this interpretation using data from Bangladesh. I find that controlling for demand side characteristics, positive supply shocks (birth of twins) lowers the probability of UTG response while negative supply shocks (wife's infertility) significantly raises the probability of UTG response. Based on the percentage of women giving the UTG response, it can be concluded that fertility of many couples in Bangladesh was constrained by supply.

Suggested Citation

  • Nistha Sinha, 2004. "Testing for a Supply Constraint to Fertility: Interpreting the Up to God Response to the Survey Question on Desired Family Size," Working Papers 889, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:889

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Willis, Robert J & Rosen, Sherwin, 1979. "Education and Self-Selection," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 7-36, October.
    2. James McCarthy & Gbolahan Oni, 1987. "Desired family size and its determinants among urban Nigerian women: A two-stage analysis," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 24(2), pages 279-290, May.
    3. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1980. "Testing the Quantity-Quality Fertility Model: The Use of Twins as a Natural Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 227-240, January.
    4. Mark Montgomery, 1987. "A new look at the easterlin “synthesis” framework," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 24(4), pages 481-496, November.
    5. Lee, Lung-Fei, 1978. "Unionism and Wage Rates: A Simultaneous Equations Model with Qualitative and Limited Dependent Variables," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 19(2), pages 415-433, June.
    6. Filmer, Deon*Pritchett, Lant, 1998. "Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data - or tears : with an application to educational enrollments in states of India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1994, The World Bank.
    7. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Schultz, T Paul, 1985. "The Demand for and Supply of Births: Fertility and Its Life Cycle Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 992-1015, December.
    8. Eric Jensen, 1985. "Desired fertility, the “up to god” response, and sample selection bias," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 22(3), pages 445-454, August.
    9. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Asadullah, Mohammad Niaz & Chaudhury, Nazmul, 2010. "Religious Schools, Social Values, and Economic Attitudes: Evidence from Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 205-217, February.

    More about this item


    fertility; desired fertility; survey nonresponse Classification-JEL Code: J13; C25;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities

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