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The Child Quantity-Quality Trade-Off During the Industrial Revolution in England

  • Marc Klemp

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

  • Jacob Weisdorf

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

We take Gary Becker's child quantity-quality trade-off hypothesis to the historical record, investigating the causal link from family size to the literacy status of offspring using data from Anglican parish registers, c. 1700-1830. Extraordinarily forhistorical data, the parish records enable us to control for parental literacy, longevity and social class, as well as sex and birth order of offspring. In a world without modern contraception and among the couples whose children were not prenuptially conceived we are able to explore a novel source of exogenous variation in family size: marital fecundability as measured by the time interval from the marriage to the first birth. Consistent with previous findings among historical populations, we document a large and significantly negative effect of family size on children's literacy.

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Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 11-16.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:1116
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