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Children and the Wealth of Nations

  • Cordoba, Juan Carlos

This paper uses calibrated versions of the Barro-Becker model to compute measures of well-being for 142 countries between 1970 and 2005. In the model, individuals are altruistic toward their descendants: they enjoy the well-being of their children. We derive a model based measure of effective "quantity of life," the effective life span of an individual. It depends positively on life expectancy, degree of altruism and number of children, and negatively on the rate of time discounting. Our calculations suggest a major quantity-quantity trade-off: for the period 1970-2005 the gains in quantity of life due to longevity improvements were mostly offset or overcome by the losses due to fertility reductions. Depending on the precise calibration, the effective quantity of life either remained roughly constant or fell substantially around the world. For many countries the effective growth rate of well-being, one that takes into account the quantity and quality of life, is significantly below the growth rate of per-capita GDP. Our findings challenge the wide-spread belief that development through fertility reductions is a free lunch.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 34989.

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Date of creation: 15 Mar 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:34989
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
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  1. Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ananth Seshadri, 2009. "Explaining International Fertility Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 771-807, May.
  2. Kevin M. Murphy & Robert H. Topel, 2005. "The Value of Health and Longevity," NBER Working Papers 11405, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Viscusi, W Kip, 1993. "The Value of Risks to Life and Health," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 1912-46, December.
  4. Juan Cordoba & Marla Ripoll, 2012. "Life, Death and World Inequality," 2012 Meeting Papers 925, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2003. "The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality," NBER Working Papers 9765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Cordoba, Juan Carlos & Verdier, Genevieve, 2010. "Inequality and Growth: Some Welfare Calculations," Staff General Research Papers 32119, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  7. Cordoba, Juan Carlos & Ripoll, Marla, 2011. "A Contribution to the Economic Theory of Fertility," Staff General Research Papers 33899, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  8. Javier Birchenall & Rodrigo Reis Soares, 2007. "Altruism, Fertility, and the Value of Children: Health Policy Evaluation and Intergenerational Welfare," Textos para discussão 537, Department of Economics PUC-Rio (Brazil).
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