IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Fertility Changes in Latin America in the Context of Economic Uncertainty


  • Adsera, Alicia

    () (Princeton University)

  • Menendez, Alicia

    () (University of Chicago)


We explore the relation between fertility and the business cycle in Latin American countries taking advantage of the existing cross-country and within-country differences in both fertility and macroeconomic conditions. First, we use a panel of 18 nations for over 45 years to study how different labor market and economic shocks may have affected fertility. Second, we estimate Cox proportional hazard models of transitions to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd births with individual Demographic and Health Survey data from ten countries. We find that periods of relative high unemployment are associated with lower fertility and with relative postponements of maternity (and to some extent second and third births). In general, women seem to postpone and even reduce childbearing in response to downturns. This behavior is mainly associated to increasing unemployment rather than slowdowns in GPD growth, although we find a positive relationship between first births and growth. Despite that periods of unemployment may be good to have children because opportunity costs are lower, maternity is reduced or postponed, in particular, among the most recent cohort and among urban and more educated women. This is consistent with the idea that, in this context, income effects are dominant.

Suggested Citation

  • Adsera, Alicia & Menendez, Alicia, 2009. "Fertility Changes in Latin America in the Context of Economic Uncertainty," IZA Discussion Papers 4019, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4019

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gonzalez-Rozada, Martin & Menendez, Alicia, 2006. "Why Have Urban Poverty and Income Inequality Increased So Much? Argentina, 1991-2001," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 109-138, October.
    2. Øystein Kravdal, 2001. "The High Fertility of College Educated Women in Norway," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 5(6), pages 187-216, December.
    3. Butz, William P & Ward, Michael P, 1979. "The Emergence of Countercyclical U.S. Fertility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 318-328, June.
    4. Norbert R. Schady, 2004. "Do Macroeconomic Crises Always Slow Human Capital Accumulation?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 18(2), pages 131-154.
    5. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
    6. Tapinos, G. & Mason, A. & Bravo, J. (ed.), 1997. "Demographic Responses to Economic Adjustment in Latin America," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292104.
    7. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
    8. Kravdal,O., 2001. "The high fertility of college educated women in Norway : an artefact of the 'piecemeal approach'," Memorandum 22/2001, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    9. Helen Connolly & Peter Gottschalk, 2000. "Differences in Wage Growth by Education Level: Do Less Educated Workers Gain Less from Work Experience?," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 473, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 26 Aug 2006.
    10. James Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explanations With A Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings With Heterogeneous Agents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(1), pages 1-58, January.
    11. Ward, Michael P & Butz, William P, 1980. "Completed Fertility and Its Timing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(5), pages 917-940, October.
    12. Morris Silver, 1965. "Births, Marriages, and Business Cycles in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 73, pages 237-237.
    13. Joseph Price, 2008. "Parent-Child Quality Time: Does Birth Order Matter?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
    14. Martín González-Rozada & Alicia Menendez, 2006. "Why Have Urban Poverty and Income Inequality Increased So Much? Argentina, 1991–2001," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55, pages 109-138.
    15. Tullio Jappelli, 1990. "Who is Credit Constrained in the U. S. Economy?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 219-234.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Emilia Bono & Andrea Weber & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2015. "Fertility and economic instability: the role of unemployment and job displacement," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(2), pages 463-478, April.
    2. Gete, Pedro & Porchia, Paolo, 2010. "Fertility and Consumption when Having a Child is a Risky Investment," MPRA Paper 27885, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. World Bank, 2011. "Work and Family : Latin American and Caribbean Women in Search of a New Balance
      [Trabajo & familia : mujeres de América Latina y el Caribe en busca de un nuevo equilibrio - Resumen ejecuivo (Vol. 2
      ," World Bank Other Operational Studies 12489, The World Bank.
    4. Luis Rosero-Bixby & Teresa Castro Martín & Teresa Martín-García, 2009. "Is Latin America starting to retreat from early and universal childbearing?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 20(9), pages 169-194, February.
    5. Sabarwal, Shwetlena & Sinha, Nistha & Buvinic, Mayra, 2011. "How Do Women Weather Economic Shocks? What We Know," World Bank - Economic Premise, The World Bank, issue 46, pages 1-6, January.
    6. Sabarwal, Shwetlena & Sinha, Nistha & Buvinic, Mayra, 2010. "How do women weather economic shocks ? a review of the evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5496, The World Bank.

    More about this item


    Latin America; unemployment; fertility; growth;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4019. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.