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Private and Social Incentives for Fertility: Israeli Puzzles

  • Charles F. Manski
  • Joram Mayshar

Whereas most of the world has experienced decreasing fertility during the past half century, Israel has experienced a puzzling mix of trends. Completed fertility has decreased sharply in some ethnic-religious groups (Mizrahi Jews and non-Bedouin Arabs) and increased moderately in other groups (non-ultra-orthodox Ashkenazi and Israeli-born Jews). In a phenomenon that can only be described as a reverse fertility transition, fertility has increased substantially (from about 3 to 6 children per women) among ultra-orthodox Ashkenazi and Israeli-born Jews. This paper explores how private and social incentives for fertility may have combined to produce the complex pattern of fertility in Israel. Theoretical analysis of the social dynamics of fertility shows that this pattern could have been generated by the joint effects of (a) private preferences for childbearing, (b) preferences for conformity to group fertility norms, and (c) the major child-allowance program introduced by the Israeli government in the 1970s. Econometric analysis of fertility decisions shows that fundamental identification problems make it difficult to infer the actual Israeli fertility process from data on completed fertility. Hence we are able to conjecture meaningfully on what may have happened, but we cannot definitively resolve the Israeli fertility puzzles.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8984.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8984.

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Date of creation: Jun 2002
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Publication status: published as Charles F. Manski & Joram Mayshar, 2003. "Private Incentives and Social Interactions: Fertility Puzzles in Israel," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(1), pages 181-211, 03.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8984
Note: CH
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  1. Manski, Charles F, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 531-42, July.
  2. V. Joseph Hotz & Robert A. Miller, . "An Empirical Analysis of Life Cycle Fertility and Female Labor Supply," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 86-15, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  3. Brock, William A & Durlauf, Steven N, 2001. "Discrete Choice with Social Interactions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(2), pages 235-60, April.
  4. Eli Berman, 2000. "Sect, Subsidy, And Sacrifice: An Economist'S View Of Ultra-Orthodox Jews," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 905-953, August.
  5. Moffitt, Robert, 1992. "Incentive Effects of the U.S. Welfare System: A Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 1-61, March.
  6. Boyer, George R, 1989. "Malthus Was Right after All: Poor Relief and Birth Rates in Southeastern England," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 93-114, February.
  7. James R. Walker, 1994. "The Effect of Public Policies on Recent Swedish Fertility Behavior," Labor and Demography 9410001, EconWPA.
  8. Charles F. Manski, 2000. "Economic Analysis of Social Interactions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 115-136, Summer.
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