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A Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility

  • Gary S. Becker
  • Robert J. Barro

Altruistic parents choose fertility and consumption by maximizing a dynastic utility f unction. The maximization implies an arbitrage condition for consumpt ion across generations and equality between the benefit from an extra child and the child-rearing cost. These conditions imply that fertil ity in open economies depends positively on the world's long-term rea l interest rate, the degree of altruism, and the growth of child-surv ival probabilities; and negatively on the rate of technical progress and the growth rate of social security. The growth of per capita cons umption across generations depends on changes in the child-rearing co st, but not on interest rates or time preference. Copyright 1988, the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Paper provided by Chicago - Population Research Center in its series University of Chicago - Population Research Center with number 85-11.

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Publication status: Published in Quarterly Journal of Economics, v. 103, no. 1 (February 1988): 1-25
Handle: RePEc:fth:chiprc:85-11
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  1. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1976. "Child Endowments, and the Quantity and Quality of Children," NBER Working Papers 0123, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David E. Wildasin, 1989. "Non-Neutrallity of Debt with Endogenous Fertility," Discussion Paper Serie A 241, University of Bonn, Germany.
  3. Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "Capital Taxation and Accumulation in a Life Cycle Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 533-44, September.
  4. Eytan Sheshinski & Yoram Weiss, 1979. "Inequality Within and Between Families," NBER Working Papers 0405, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Robert J. Willis, . "A Theory of the Equilibrium Interest Rate in an Overlapping Generations Model: Life Cycles, Institutions, and Population Growth," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 85-8, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  6. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-93, Nov.-Dec..
  7. Barro, Robert J., 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Scholarly Articles 3451399, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Razin, Assaf & Ben-Zion, Uri, 1975. "An Intergenerational Model of Population Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 923-33, December.
  9. Behrman, Jere R & Pollak, Robert A & Taubman, Paul, 1982. "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 52-73, February.
  10. Feldstein, Martin S, 1974. "Social Security, Induced Retirement, and Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 905-26, Sept./Oct.
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