IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

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

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.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University in its series Center for Policy Research Working Papers with number 8.

in new window

Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Mar 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:max:cprwps:8
Contact details of provider: Postal: 426 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, New York USA 13244-1020
Phone: (315) 443-3114
Fax: (315) 443-1081
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Diane J. Macunovich, 1998. "Fertility and the Easterlin hypothesis: An assessment of the literature," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 53-111.
  2. Diane Macunovich, 1999. "The Fortune of One's Birth: Relative Cohort Size and the Youth Labor Market in the United States," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 6, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  3. 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.
  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. 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.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:max:cprwps:8. 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: (Kelly Bogart)

or (Katrina Wingle)

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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.