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Decomposing Fertility Differences Across World Regions and Over Time: Is Improved Health More Important than Women's Schooling?

  • Suzanne Duryea
  • Jere R. Behrman
  • Miguel Székely

There is a recent renewal of interest in the relation between shifts in age structures of populations and various economic outcomes. These shifts are triggered by changes in fertility and mortality that take place some years before becoming apparent in the standard age structure and that may create windows of opportunity for subsequent development. A large number of countries in the world are still experiencing, or probably about to experience, fertility declines. This paper first characterizes differences in fertility and mortality and in related dependency ratios across regions and over time. The paper then uses a panel of 96 countries covering the period 1965-1995 to decompose the differences in fertility rates between developed and developing countries and the differences in fertility between 1960 and 1995 for several developing regions and for 22 individual countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region. These decompositions indicate that the main correlates of fertility differences across space and over time are female schooling and health, with the former having larger associations with differential fertility among regions/countries at a point of time and the latter having larger associations with fertility declines over time. This suggests that the importance of associations of increased female schooling relative to those of improved health may be overstated in the literature, which is substantially based on inferring longitudinal relations from cross-sectional data.

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Paper provided by Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department in its series Research Department Publications with number 4182.

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Date of creation: Sep 1999
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Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:4182
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  1. Summers, Robert & Heston, Alan, 1991. "The Penn World Table (Mark 5): An Expanded Set of International Comparisons, 1950-1988," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 327-68, May.
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  9. Willis, Robert J, 1973. "A New Approach to the Economic Theory of Fertility Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S14-64, Part II, .
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  11. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong-Wha, 1993. "International comparisons of educational attainment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 363-394, December.
  12. Jere R. Behrman & Andrew D. Foster & Mark R. Rosenzweig & Prem Vashishtha, 1999. "Women's Schooling, Home Teaching, and Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(4), pages 682-714, August.
  13. Schultz, T.P., 1990. "Returns To Women'S Education," Papers 603, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  14. Birdsall, Nancy, 1988. "Economic approaches to population growth," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 477-542 Elsevier.
  15. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 1993. "Losers and Winners in Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 4341, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. David Lam & Suzanne Duryea, 1999. "Effects of Schooling on Fertility, Labor Supply, and Investments in Children, with Evidence from Brazil," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 160-192.
  17. Chamie, Joseph, 1994. "Population databases in development analysis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 131-146, June.
  18. John Luke Gallup & Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew D. Mellinger, 1998. "Geography and Economic Development," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1856, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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