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House Prices and Birth Rates: The Impact of the Real Estate Market on the Decision to Have a Baby

  • Lisa J. Dettling
  • Melissa Schettini Kearney

This project investigates how changes in Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)- level housing prices affect household fertility decisions. Recognizing that housing is a major cost associated with child rearing, and assuming that children are normal goods, we hypothesize that an increase in house prices will have a negative price effect on current period fertility. This applies to both potential first-time homeowners and current homeowners who might upgrade to a bigger house with the addition of a child. On the other hand, for current homeowners, an increase in MSA-level house prices will increase home equity, leading to a positive effect on birth rates. Our results suggest that indeed, short-term increases in house prices lead to a decline in births among non-owners and a net increase among owners. The estimates imply that a $10,000 increase leads to a 5 percent increase in fertility rates among owners and a 2.4 percent decrease among non-owners. At the mean U.S. home ownership rate, these estimates imply that the net effect of a $10,000 increase in house prices is a 0.8 percent increase in current period fertility rates. Given underlying differences in home ownership rates, the predicted net effect of house price changes varies across demographic groups. In addition, we find that changes in house prices exert a larger effect on current period birth rates than do changes in unemployment rates. This project investigates how changes in Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)- level housing prices affect household fertility decisions. Recognizing that housing is a major cost associated with child rearing, and assuming that children are normal goods, we hypothesize that an increase in house prices will have a negative price effect on current period fertility. This applies to both potential first-time homeowners and current homeowners who might upgrade to a bigger house with the addition of a child. On the other hand, for current homeowners, an increase in MSA-level house prices will increase home equity, leading to a positive effect on birth rates. Our results suggest that indeed, short-term increases in house prices lead to a decline in births among non-owners and a net increase among owners. The estimates imply that a $10,000 increase leads to a 5 percent increase in fertility rates among owners and a 2.4 percent decrease among non-owners. At the mean U.S. home ownership rate, these estimates imply that the net effect of a $10,000 increase in house prices is a 0.8 percent increase in current period fertility rates. Given underlying differences in home ownership rates, the predicted net effect of house price changes varies across demographic groups. In addition, we find that changes in house prices exert a larger effect on current period birth rates than do changes in unemployment rates.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17485.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17485.

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Date of creation: Oct 2011
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Publication status: published as Dettling, Lisa and Melisa S. Kearney. “House Prices and Birth Rates: The Impact of the Real Estate Market on the Decision to Have a Baby,” Journal of Public Economics 110, February 2014: 1-166.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17485
Note: CH LS PE
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  1. Michael Lovenheim & Kevin Mumford, 2010. "Do Family Wealth Shocks Affect Fertility Choices? Evidence from the Housing Market Boom and Bust," Discussion Papers 09-004, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
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  7. Gary S. Becker, 1960. "An Economic Analysis of Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries, pages 209-240 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Karl E. Case & John M. Quigley & Robert J. Shiller, 2001. "Comparing Wealth Effects: The Stock Market versus the Housing Market," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1335, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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  13. Alma Cohen & Rajeev Dehejia & Dmitri Romanov, 2007. "Do Financial Incentives Affect Fertility?," NBER Working Papers 13700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Dan A. Black & Natalia Kolesnikova & Seth G. Sanders & Lowell J. Taylor, 2013. "Are Children “Normal”?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 21-33, March.
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  17. Rappaport, Jordan & Sachs, Jeffrey D, 2003. "The United States as a Coastal Nation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 5-46, March.
  18. Kevin Milligan, 2002. "Subsidizing the Stork: New Evidence on Tax Incentives and Fertility," NBER Working Papers 8845, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Jason M. Lindo, 2010. "Are Children Really Inferior Goods? Evidence from Displacement-Driven Income Shocks," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 45(2).
  20. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
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  23. Voram Ben-Porath, 1973. "Short-term fluctuations in fertility and economic activity in Israel," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 10(2), pages 185-204, May.
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