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Relative Cohort Size: Source of a Unifying Theory of Global Fertility Transition

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  • Diane Macunovich

    () (Department of Economics, University of Redlands)

Abstract

Using United Nations estimates of age structure and vital rates for nearly 200 nations at five-year intervals from 1950 through 1995, this paper demonstrates how changes in relative cohort size appear to have affected patterns of fertility across nations since 1950--not just in developed countries, but perhaps even more importantly in countries as they pass through the demographic transition. The increase in relative cohort size (defined as the proportion of the population aged 15 to 24 relative to that aged 25 to 59) which occurs as a result of declining mortality rates among children and young adults during the demographic transition, appears to act as the mechanism of transmission which determines when the fertility portion of the transition begins. As hypothesized by Richard Easterlin, the increasing proportion of young adults would generate a downward pressure on young men's relative wages, which in turn causes young adults to accept a trade-off between family size and material well-being, setting in motion a "cascade" or "snowball" effect in which total fertility rates tumble as social norms regarding acceptable family sizes begin to change. Thus relative cohort size can be thought of as the mechanism which prevents excessive rates of population change--reducing ferility when previous high rates, in combination with low mortality rates, have caused relative cohort size to increase, and increasing fertility when previous low rates have caused relative cohort size to decline.

Suggested Citation

  • Diane Macunovich, 1999. "Relative Cohort Size: Source of a Unifying Theory of Global Fertility Transition," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 8, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  • Handle: RePEc:max:cprwps:8
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Macunovich, D.J., 1996. "Relative Income and Price of Time: Exploring their effcts on U.S. Fertility and Female Labor Force Participation, 1963-1993," Department of Economics Working Papers 174, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    2. Diane J. Macunovich, 1998. "Fertility and the Easterlin hypothesis: An assessment of the literature," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 11(1), pages 53-111.
    3. Diane J. Macunovich, 1999. "The fortunes of one's birth: Relative cohort size and the youth labor market in the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 12(2), pages 215-272.
    4. Macunovich, Diane J., 1998. "Race and relative income/price of time effects on U.S. fertility," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 365-400.
    5. Sanders Korenman & David Neumark, 2000. "Cohort Crowding and Youth Labor Markets (A Cross-National Analysis)," NBER Chapters,in: Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries, pages 57-106 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Diane Macunovich, 1999. "The Baby Boom As It Ages: How Has It Affected Patterns of Consumptions and Savings in the United States?," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 7, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "Mortality Reductions, Educational Attainment, and Fertility Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 580-601, June.
    2. Cynthia B. Lloyd, 2001. "World population in 2050: assessing the projections: discussion," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 46.
    3. Domingues, Patrick, 2011. "Civil War Exposure And School Enrolment:Evidence From The Mozambican Civil War," NEPS Working Papers 1/2011, Network of European Peace Scientists.
    4. Jona Schellekens & Frans Poppel, 2012. "Marital Fertility Decline in the Netherlands: Child Mortality, Real Wages, and Unemployment, 1860–1939," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 49(3), pages 965-988, August.
    5. Yongil Jeon & Sang-Young Rhyu & Michael P. Shields, 2007. "Asian Demographic Transition: An Instrumental-Variables Panel Approach," Monash Economics Working Papers 28-07, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    6. Anna Sibilla Francesca DE PAOLI, 2010. "The effect of schooling on fertility, labor market participation and children’s outcomes, evidence from Ecuador," Departmental Working Papers 2010-30, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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