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Did Improvements in Household Technology Cause the Baby Boom? Evidence from Electrification, Appliance Diffusion, and the Amish

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  • Martha J. Bailey
  • William J. Collins

Abstract

More than a half century after its peak, the baby boom's causes remain a puzzle. A new argument posits that rapid advancements in household technology from 1940 to 1960 account for this large increase in fertility. We present new empirical evidence that is inconsistent with this claim. Rapid advances in household technology began long before 1940 while fertility declined; differences and changes in appliance ownership and electrification in U.S. counties are negatively correlated with fertility rates from 1940 to 1960; and the correlation between children ever born (measured at ages 41 to 60) and access to electrical service in early adulthood is negative for the relevant cohorts of women. Moreover, the Amish, a group strictly limiting the use of modern household technologies, experienced a sizable and coincident baby boom. A final section reconciles this evidence with economic theory by allowing households to have utility over home-produced commodities that are substitutes for the number of children.

Suggested Citation

  • Martha J. Bailey & William J. Collins, 2009. "Did Improvements in Household Technology Cause the Baby Boom? Evidence from Electrification, Appliance Diffusion, and the Amish," NBER Working Papers 14641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14641
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    Cited by:

    1. Alan Barreca & Karen Clay & Olivier Deschenes & Michael Greenstone & Joseph S. Shapiro, 2013. "Adapting to Climate Change: The Remarkable Decline in the U.S. Temperature-Mortality Relationship over the 20th Century," NBER Working Papers 18692, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2014. "Maternal health and the baby boom," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 5, pages 225-269, July.
    3. Tamura, Robert & Simon, Curtis, 2017. "Secular Fertility Declines, Baby Booms, And Economic Growth: International Evidence," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(07), pages 1601-1672, October.
    4. Matthias Doepke & Moshe Hazan & Yishay D. Maoz, 2015. "The Baby Boom and World War II: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(3), pages 1031-1073.
    5. Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2017. "Family Economics Writ Large," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(4), pages 1346-1434, December.
    6. David E. Bloom & Dara Lee Luca, 2016. "The Global Demography of Aging: Facts, Explanations, Future," PGDA Working Papers 13016, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
    7. Tamura, Robert & Simon, Curtis & Murphy, Kevin M., 2012. "Black and White Fertility, Differential Baby Booms: The Value of Civil Rights," MPRA Paper 40921, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Michael Grimm & Robert Sparrow & Luca Tasciotti, 2015. "Does Electrification Spur the Fertility Transition? Evidence From Indonesia," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(5), pages 1773-1796, October.
    9. Bellou, Andriana & Cardia, Emanuela, 2014. "Baby-Boom, Baby-Bust and the Great Depression," IZA Discussion Papers 8727, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Rosamaría Dasso & Fernando Fernandez, 2015. "The effects of electrification on employment in rural Peru," IZA Journal of Labor & Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-16, December.
    11. Kohlin, Gunnar & Sills, Erin O. & Pattanayak, Subhrendu K. & Wilfong, Christopher, 2011. "Energy, gender and development: what are the linkages ? where is the evidence ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5800, The World Bank.
    12. Bloom, David E. & Luca, Dara Lee, 2016. "The Global Demography of Aging: Facts, Explanations, Future," IZA Discussion Papers 10163, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. repec:hka:wpaper:2013-03 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Jeremy GREENWOOD & Ananth SESHADRI & Guillaume VANDENBROUCKE, 2015. "Measurment without Theory, Once again," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 81(3), pages 317-329, September.
    15. Matthew J. Hill, 2014. "Homes and husbands for all: Marriage, housing and the baby boom," Economics Working Papers 1452, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    16. repec:eee:hapoch:v1_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Louise Grogan, 2016. "Household Electrification, Fertility, and Employment: Evidence from Hydroelectric Dam Construction in Colombia," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(1), pages 109-158.
    18. Taryn Dinkelman, 2011. "The Effects of Rural Electrification on Employment: New Evidence from South Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3078-3108, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E0 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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