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Aggregating the Fertility Transition: Intergenerational Dynamics in Quality and Quantity


  • Tom Vogl


Fertility change is distinct from other forms of social and economic change because it directly alters the size and composition of the next generation. This paper studies how changes in population composition over the fertility transition feed back into the evolution of average fertility across generations. Theory predicts that changes in the relationship between human capital and fertility first weaken and then strengthen fertility similarities between mothers and daughters, a process that first promotes and then restricts aggregate fertility decline. Consistent with these predictions, microdata from 40 developing countries over the second half of the 20th century show that intergenerational fertility associations strengthen late in the fertility transition, due to the alignment of the education-fertility relationship across generations. As fertility approaches the replacement level, the strengthening of these associations reweights the population to raise aggregate fertility rates, pushing back against aggregate fertility decline.

Suggested Citation

  • Tom Vogl, 2017. "Aggregating the Fertility Transition: Intergenerational Dynamics in Quality and Quantity," NBER Working Papers 23081, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23081
    Note: CH DEV EFG

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    2. Lam, David, 1986. "The Dynamics of Population Growth, Differential Fertility, and Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1103-1116, December.
    3. Gregory Clark & Neil Cummins, 2015. "Malthus to modernity: wealth, status, and fertility in England, 1500–1879," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(1), pages 3-29, January.
    4. Quamrul H. Ashraf & David N. Weil & Joshua Wilde, 2013. "The Effect of Fertility Reduction on Economic Growth," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 39(1), pages 97-130, March.
    5. Galor, Oded & Michalopoulos, Stelios, 2012. "Evolution and the growth process: Natural selection of entrepreneurial traits," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 759-780.
    6. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory and Comparative Development," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 2, pages 9-21, April-Jun.
    7. Sonia Bhalotra & Samantha Rawlings, 2013. "Gradients of the Intergenerational Transmission of Health in Developing Countries," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 660-672, May.
    8. Moshe Hazan & Binyamin Berdugo, 2002. "Child Labour, Fertility, and Economic Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(482), pages 810-828, October.
    9. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9477.
    10. Gregory Clark, 2007. "Introduction to A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World," Introductory Chapters,in: A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World Princeton University Press.
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    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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