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The trade-off between fertility and education: Evidence from before the demographic transition

  • Becker, Sascha O.
  • Cinnirella, Francesco
  • Wößmann, Ludger

The trade-off between child quantity and quality is a crucial ingredient of unified growth models that explain the transition from Malthusian stagnation to modern growth. We present first evidence that such a trade-off indeed existed already in the nineteenth century, exploiting a unique census-based dataset of 334 Prussian counties in 1849. Furthermore, we find that causation between fertility and education runs both ways, based on separate instrumental-variable models that instrument fertility by sex ratios and education by landownership inequality and distance toWittenberg. Education in 1849 also predicts the fertility transition in 1880-1905.

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Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Munich Reprints in Economics with number 20196.

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Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic Growth 3 15(2010): pp. 177-204
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:20196
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