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The Historical Fertility Transition: A Guide for Economists

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  • Timothy W. Guinnane

    (Department of Economics, Yale University)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Timothy W. Guinnane, 2010. "The Historical Fertility Transition: A Guide for Economists," Working Papers 990, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:990
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    fertility transition; long-run growth; Malthusian models; quantity-quality trade-off;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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