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Mother's Schooling and Fertility under Low Female Labor Force Participation: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

  • Victor Lavy
  • Alexander Zablotsky

This paper studies the effect of mothers' education on fertility in a population with very low female labor force participation. The results we present are particularly relevant to many countries in the Muslim world where 70-80 percent of women are still out of the labor force. For identification we exploit the abrupt end of the military rule which greatly restricted the mobility of Arabs in Israel until the mid-1960's. This change improved access to schooling in communities that lacked schools and, as a consequence, significantly increased the education of affected cohorts, mainly of girls. The very large increase in schooling attainment triggered a sharp decline in completed fertility. We show that no other changes explain these findings and that the results are robust to checks against various threats to identification. We rule out convergence in fertility and schooling, changes in labor-force participation, age upon marriage, marriage and divorce rates, and spousal labor-force participation and earnings as mechanisms in this fertility decline. Spousal education increased however sharply through assortative matching and played a role in the fertility decline. We also show that the increase in mother's education was significantly and positively correlated with several potential mechanisms such as a reduction in the desired number of children, better knowledge and higher probability of using contraceptives, recognition that family size can compromise children quality, larger role for women in family decision making, less religiosity, and positive attitude towards modern health care and modernism in general.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16856.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16856
Note: CH ED LS
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  1. Monstad, Karin & Propper, Carol & Salvanes, Kjell Gunnar, 2008. "Education and Fertility: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Working Papers in Economics 05/08, University of Bergen, Department of Economics.
  2. Black, Sandra & Devereux, Paul J., 2010. "Recent Developments in Intergenerational Mobility," CEPR Discussion Papers 7786, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Victor Lavy, 2010. "Effects of Free Choice Among Public Schools," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(3), pages 1164-1191.
  4. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne E. Page, 2006. "The Intergenerational Effects of Compulsory Schooling," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 729-760, October.
  5. Eric Maurin & Sandra McNally, 2008. "Vive la Révolution! Long-Term Educational Returns of 1968 to the Angry Students," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26, pages 1-33.
  6. Pedro Carneiro & Costas Meghir & Matthias Parey, 2010. "Maternal education, home environments and the development of children and adolescents," CeMMAP working papers CWP39/10, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  7. Omer Moav, 2005. "Cheap Children and the Persistence of Poverty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(500), pages 88-110, 01.
  8. SandraE. Black & PaulJ. Devereux & KjellG. Salvanes, 2008. "Staying in the Classroom and out of the maternity ward? The effect of compulsory schooling laws on teenage births," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(530), pages 1025-1054, 07.
  9. Angrist, Joshua D & Lavy, Victor, 1997. "The Effect of a Change in Language of Instruction on the Returns to Schooling in Morocco," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages S48-76, January.
  10. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy & Analia Schlosser, 2010. "Multiple Experiments for the Causal Link between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(4), pages 773-824, October.
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