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The effect of investment in children’s education on fertility in 1816 Prussia


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


The interaction between investment in children’s education and parental fertility is crucial in recent theories of the transition from Malthusian stagnation to modern economic growth. This paper contributes to the literature on the child quantity-quality trade-off with new county-level evidence for Prussia in 1816, several decades before the demographic transition. We find a significant negative causal effect of education on fertility, which is robust to accounting for spatial autocorrelation. The causal effect of education is identified through exogenous variation in enrollment rates due to differences in landownership inequality. A comparison with estimates for 1849 suggests that the preference for quality relative to quantity might have increased during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Suggested Citation

  • Becker, Sascha O. & Cinnirella, Francesco & Wößmann, Ludger, 2012. "The effect of investment in children’s education on fertility in 1816 Prussia," Munich Reprints in Economics 20197, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:20197

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    2. Sascha O. Becker & Ludger Woessmann, 2009. "Was Weber Wrong? A Human Capital Theory of Protestant Economic History," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 531-596.
    3. Oded Galor, 2005. "The Demographic Transition and the Emergence of Sustained Economic Growth," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 494-504, 04/05.
    4. Hartog,Joop & Maassen van den Brink,Henriëtte (ed.), 2009. "Human Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521117562, March.
    5. Matteo Cervellati & Uwe Sunde, 2005. "Human Capital Formation, Life Expectancy, and the Process of Development," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1653-1672, December.
    6. Galor, Oded, 2005. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 171-293 Elsevier.
    7. Becker, Sascha O. & Cinnirella, Francesco & Woessmann, Ludger, 2011. "Does Parental Education Affect Fertility? Evidence from Pre-Demographic Transition Prussia," CEPR Discussion Papers 8339, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Sascha Becker & Francesco Cinnirella & Ludger Woessmann, 2010. "The trade-off between fertility and education: evidence from before the demographic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 177-204, September.
    9. Sascha Becker & Ludger Wößmann, 2008. "Luther and the Girls: Religious Denomination and the Female Education Gap in 19th Century Prussia," CESifo Working Paper Series 2414, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Sascha O. Becker & Erik Hornung & Ludger Woessmann, 2011. "Education and Catch-Up in the Industrial Revolution," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 92-126, July.
    11. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2004. "Natural Selection and the Evolution of Life Expectancy," GE, Growth, Math methods 0409004, EconWPA.
    12. Ronald Lee, 2003. "The Demographic Transition: Three Centuries of Fundamental Change," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 167-190, Fall.
    13. Cervellati, Matteo & Sunde, Uwe, 2007. "Human Capital, Mortality and Fertility: A Unified Theory of the Economic and Demographic Transition," IZA Discussion Papers 2905, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2009. "Inequality in Landownership, the Emergence of Human-Capital Promoting Institutions, and the Great Divergence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 143-179.
    15. John C. Brown & Timothy W. Guinnane, 2007. "Regions and time in the European fertility transition: problems in the Princeton Project's statistical methodology -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(3), pages 574-595, August.
    16. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 150-154, May.
    17. Becker, Sascha O. & Woessmann, Ludger, 2010. "The effect of Protestantism on education before the industrialization: Evidence from 1816 Prussia," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 224-228, May.
    18. Tommy Bengtsson & Martin Dribe, 2006. "Deliberate control in a natural fertility population: Southern Sweden, 1766–1864," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(4), pages 727-746, November.
    19. Jack A. Goldstone, 2007. "Jack Goldstone on Gregory Clark, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," World Economics, World Economics, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 8(3), pages 207-225, July.
    20. Matthias Doepke, 2005. "Child mortality and fertility decline: Does the Barro-Becker model fit the facts?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 18(2), pages 337-366, June.
    21. Crafts, Nicholas, 1988. "Duration of Marriage, Fertility and Female Employment Opportunities in England and Wales in 1911," CEPR Discussion Papers 252, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    22. Hoyt Bleakley & Fabian Lange, 2009. "Chronic Disease Burden and the Interaction of Education, Fertility, and Growth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 52-65, February.
    23. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," Introductory Chapters,in: A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World Princeton University Press.
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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Cinnirella, Francesco & Hornung, Erik, 2016. "Landownership concentration and the expansion of education," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 135-152.
    2. Oded, Galor, 2011. "Inequality, Human Capital Formation, and the Process of Development," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    3. Sascha O. Becker & Francesco Cinnirella & Erik Hornung & Ludger Woessmann, 2014. "iPEHD--The ifo Prussian Economic History Database," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(2), pages 57-66, June.
    4. Claude Diebolt & Faustine Perrin, 2014. "Growth Theories," Working Papers 02-14, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    5. Claude Diebolt & Faustine Perrin, 2013. "From Stagnation to Sustained Growth: The Role of Female Empowerment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 545-549, May.
    6. Faustine Perrin, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory: An Insight," Historical Social Research (Section 'Cliometrics'), Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 36(3), pages 362-372.
    7. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-01321952 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Claude Diebolt & Audrey-Rose Menard & Faustine Perrin, 2016. "Behind the Fertility-Education Nexus: What Triggered the French Development Process?," Working Papers of BETA 2016-10, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    9. Diebolt, Claude & Mishra, Tapas & Perrin, Faustine, 2015. "Did Gender-Bias Matter in the Quantity-Quality Trade-off in 19th Century France?," Lund Papers in Economic History 141, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    10. Alberto Basso & David Cuberes, 2013. "Fertility and Financial Development: Evidence from U.S. Counties in the 19th Century," Working Papers 2013011, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.
    11. Sascha O. Becker & Francesco Cinnirella & Ludger Woessmann, 2013. "Does women's education affect fertility? Evidence from pre-demographic transition Prussia," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 24-44, February.
    12. Claude Diebolt & Faustine Perrin, 2017. "A Cliometric Model of Unified Growth. Family Organization and Economic Growth in the Long Run of History," Working Papers of BETA 2017-03, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    13. Manoel Bittencourt, 2014. "Primary Education and Fertility Rates in Southern Africa: Evidence from Before the Demographic Transition," Working Papers 432, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    14. Guillaume Daudin & Raphaël Franck & Hillel Rapoport, 2016. "The cultural diffusion of the fertility transition: evidence from internal migration in 19 th century France," PSE - G-MOND WORKING PAPERS halshs-01321952, HAL.
    15. Ludger Wößmann, 2011. "Die Bedeutung von Bildung für die Wirtschaftsentwicklung: Eine neue wirtschaftshistorische Forschungsagenda anhand preußischer Kreisdaten, Teil 2," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 64(01), pages 41-47, January.
    16. Manoel Bittencourt, 2014. "Education and Fertility: Panel Time-Series Evidence from Southern Africa," Working Papers 431, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    17. Charlotte Le Chapelain, 2013. "Cliométrie et Capital humain," Working Papers 01-13, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    18. repec:hal:cesptp:halshs-01321952 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913


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