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The Historical Fertility Transition: A Guide for Economists

  • Timothy W. Guinnane

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Yale University)

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    The historical fertility transition is the process by which much of Europe and North America went from high to low fertility in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This transformation is central to recent accounts of long-run economic growth. Prior to the transition, women bore as many as eight children each, and the elasticity of fertility with respect to incomes was positive. Today, many women have no children at all, and the elasticity of fertility with respect to incomes is zero or even negative. This paper discusses the large literature on the historical fertility transition, focusing on what we do and do not know about the process. I stress some possible misunderstandings of the demographic literature, and discuss an agenda for future work.

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    File URL: http://www.econ.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp990.pdf
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    Paper provided by Economic Growth Center, Yale University in its series Working Papers with number 990.

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    Length: 42 pages
    Date of creation: Oct 2010
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:990
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    1. Guinnane, Timothy W. & Streb, Jochen, 2011. "Moral Hazard in a Mutual Health Insurance System: German Knappschaften, 1867–1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(01), pages 70-104, March.
    2. Martha J. Bailey, 2009. ""Momma's Got the Pill": How Anthony Comstock and Griswold v. Connecticut Shaped U.S. Childbearing," NBER Working Papers 14675, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Price V. Fishback & Shawn Everett Kantor, 2000. "A Prelude to the Welfare State: The Origins of Workers' Compensation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number fish00-1, December.
    4. Oded Galor, 2004. "The Demographic Transition and the Emergence of Sustained Economic Growth," GE, Growth, Math methods 0409005, EconWPA.
    5. Robert T. Michael & Robert J. Willis, 1973. "Contraception and Fertility: Household Production Under Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 0021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Nicolini, Esteban A., 2007. "Was Malthus right? A VAR analysis of economic and demographic interactions in pre-industrial England," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 99-121, April.
    7. Niels Framroze Møller & Paul Sharp, 2008. "Malthus in Cointegration Space: A new look at living standards and population in pre-industrial England," Discussion Papers 08-16, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    8. Michael Anderson & Ronald Lee, 2002. "Malthus in state space: Macro economic-demographic relations in English history, 1540 to 1870," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 195-220.
    9. Sascha O. Becker & Francesco Cinnirella & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "The Trade-off between Fertility and Education: Evidence from before the Demographic Transition," CESifo Working Paper Series 2775, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Katz, Lawrence & Goldin, Claudia, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Scholarly Articles 2624453, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    11. Oded Galor, 2006. "The Demographic Transition," Working Papers 2006-24, Brown University, Department of Economics.
    12. Timothy Guinnane & Barbara Okun & James Trussell, 1994. "What do we know about the timing of fertility transitions in europe?," Demography, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 1-20, February.
    13. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy & Robert Tamura, . "Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 90-5a, Chicago - Population Research Center.
    14. Becker, Sascha O. & Cinnirella, Francesco & Wößmann, Ludger, 2010. "The trade-off between fertility and education: Evidence from before the demographic transition," Munich Reprints in Economics 20196, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    15. Tommy E. Murphy, 2010. "Old Habits Die Hard (Sometimes) Can département heterogeneity tell us something about the French fertility decline??," Working Papers 364, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    16. Moehling, Carolyn M., 1999. "State Child Labor Laws and the Decline of Child Labor," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 72-106, January.
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. repec:cup:jechis:v:60:y:2000:i:03:p:782-818_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Tommy E. Murphy, 2010. "Persistence of Malthus or Persistence in Malthus? Mortality, Income, and Marriage in the French Fertility Decline of the Long Nineteenth Century?," Working Papers 363, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    21. Hans-Peter Kohler & Francesco C. Billari & José Antonio Ortega, 2002. "The Emergence of Lowest-Low Fertility in Europe During the 1990s," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(4), pages 641-680.
    22. Michael R. Haines, 1994. "The Population of the United States, 1790-1920," NBER Historical Working Papers 0056, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Timothy Guinnane & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2008. "Institutions and Demographic Responses to Shocks: Württemberg, 1634-1870," Working Papers 962, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
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