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Contraception and Fertility: Household Production Under Uncertainty

  • Robert T. Michael
  • Robert J. Willis

Over the past century fertility behavior in the United Stated has undergone profound changes Measured by cohort fertility the average number of children per married woman had declined from about 5.5 children at the time of the Civil War to 2.4 children at the time of the Great Depression. It is seldom emphasized however that an even greater relative change took place in the dispersion of fertility among these women: the percentage of women with, say, seven or more children declined from 36% to under 6%. While students of population have offered reasonably convincing explanations for the decline in fertility over time, they have not succeeded in explaining the fluctuations in the trend and have made surprisingly little effort to explain the large and systematic decline in the dispersion of fertility over time. In this paper we attempt to study contraception behavior and its effects on fertility. One of the effects on which we focus considerable attention is the dispersion or variance in fertility. Our analysis is applied to cross-sectional data but it also provides an explanation for the decline in the variance in fertility over time.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w0021.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0021.

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Date of creation: Dec 1973
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Publication status: published as Michael, Robert T. and Robert J. Willis. "Contraception and Fertility: Household Production Under Uncertainty." Household Production and Consumption,edited by Nestor E. Terleckyj, Vol. 40. Columbia UUniversity Press, (1976),pp. 27-93.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0021
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  1. Jacob Mincer & Solomon Polacheck, 1974. "Family Investments in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 397-431 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ben-Porath, Yoram, 1973. "Economic Analysis of Fertility in Israel: Point and Counterpoint," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S202-33, Part II, .
  3. repec:cai:popine:popu_p1961_16n4_0636 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Willis, Robert J, 1973. "A New Approach to the Economic Theory of Fertility Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S14-64, Part II, .
  5. Cain, Glen G, 1971. "Issues in the Economics of a Population Policy for the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 408-17, May.
  6. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132.
  7. Michael, Robert T, 1973. "Education and the Derived Demand for Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages S128-64, Part II, .
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