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Fertility and Modernity

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  • Enrico Spolaore
  • Romain Wacziarg

Abstract

We investigate the historical dynamics of the decline in fertility in Europe and its relation to measures of cultural and ancestral distance. We test the hypothesis that the decline of fertility was associated with the diffusion of social and behavioral changes from France, in contrast with the spread of the Industrial Revolution, where England played a leading role. We argue that the diffusion of the fertility decline and the spread of industrialization followed different patterns because societies at different relative distances from the respective innovators (the French and the English) faced different barriers to imitation and adoption, and such barriers were lower for societies that were historically and culturally closer to the innovators. We provide a model of fertility choices in which the transition from higher to lower levels of fertility is the outcome of a process of social innovation and social influence, whereby late adopters observe and learn about the novel behaviors, norms and practices introduced by early adopters at the frontier. In the empirical analysis we study the determinants of marital fertility in a sample of European populations and regions from 1830 t0 1970, and successfully test our theoretical predictions using measures of genetic distance between European populations and a novel data set of ancestral linguistic distances between European regions.

Suggested Citation

  • Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2014. "Fertility and Modernity," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0779, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  • Handle: RePEc:tuf:tuftec:0779
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    Cited by:

    1. Chabé-Ferret, Bastien, 2019. "Adherence to cultural norms and economic incentives: Evidence from fertility timing decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 24-48.
    2. Cai, Jie & Stoyanov, Andrey, 2016. "Population aging and comparative advantage," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 1-21.
    3. de la Croix, David & Perrin, Faustine, 2018. "How far can economic incentives explain the French fertility and education transition?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 221-245.
    4. Enrico Spolaore, 2019. "Commanding Nature by Obeying Her: A Review Essay on Joel Mokyr’s A Culture of Growth," NBER Working Papers 26061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Brian Beach & W. Walker Hanlon, 2019. "Censorship, Family Planning, and the Historical Fertility Transition," NBER Working Papers 25752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Andrew Dickens, 2018. "Population relatedness and cross-country idea flows: evidence from book translations," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 23(4), pages 367-386, December.
    7. Johnson, Noel, 2015. "Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building: Evidence from France," MPRA Paper 63598, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Robert TAMURA & David CUBERES, 2020. "Equilibrium and A-efficient Fertility with Increasing Returns to Population and Endogenous Mortality," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 86(2), pages 157-182, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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