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Human Capital and Fertility in Chinese Clans Before Modern Growth

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  • Carol H. Shiue

Abstract

A stylized fact of modern growth is that as countries become richer, education levels rise while family size decreases. This paper provides evidence that well before the onset of modern growth, changes in the return to education affected household choice of children's quantity versus quality. The setting is in Anhui Province, China over the 13th to 20th centuries. I show that the civil service examination system underwent long-term changes affecting the return to education, providing a means to test whether incentives for acquiring education affected fertility decisions. Employing an intergenerationally-linked dataset drawn from over 43,000 individuals, I first show that as the state examination’s discretionary practices had been largely eliminated by the 17th century, increasing the return to education, households with a lower number of children had a higher chance that one of their sons would substantially invest into human capital. Second, I demonstrate that this negative relationship between fertility and education disappeared with a fall in the return to education due to the deterioration of the state examination system in the 19th century. Taken together, my findings provide support for the hypothesis that fertility choices respond to changes in the return to human capital. The implications of these findings for theories of economic development are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Carol H. Shiue, 2013. "Human Capital and Fertility in Chinese Clans Before Modern Growth," NBER Working Papers 19661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19661
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    Cited by:

    1. Carol H. SHIUE, 2016. "A Culture of Kinship: Chinese Genealogies as a Souce for Research in Demographic Economics," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 82(4), pages 459-482, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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