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Revolution in U.S. Fertility, Schooling and Women's Work, 1875-1940: Assessing Proposed Explanations

This paper addresses revolutionary changes in the education, fertility and market work of U.S. families formed in the 1870s-1920s: Fertility fell from 5.3 to 2.6; the graduation rate of their children increased from 7 to 50 percent; and the fraction of adulthood wives devoted to market-oriented work increased from 9 to 27 percent (by one measure). -These trends are addressed within a unified framework to examine the ability of several proposed mechanisms to quantitatively replicate these changes. Based on careful calibration, the choices of successive generations of representative husband-and-wife households over the quantity and quality of their children, household production, and the extent of mother's involvement in market-oriented production are simulated. -Rising wages, declining mortality, a declining gender wage gap, and increased efficiency and public provision of schooling cannot, individually or in combination, reduce fertility or increase stocks of human capital to levels seen in the data. The best fit of the model to the data also involves: 1) a decreased tendency among parents to view potential earnings of children as the property of parents and, 2) rising consumption shares per dependent child. -Greater attention should be given the determinants of parental control of the work and earnings of children. -One contribution is the gathering of information and strategies necessary to establish an initial baseline, and the time paths for parameters and targets for this period beset with data limitations. A second contribution is identifying the contributions of various mechanisms toward reaching those calibration targets.

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File URL: http://www.umbc.edu/economics/wpapers/wp_12_04.pdf
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Paper provided by UMBC Department of Economics in its series UMBC Economics Department Working Papers with number 12-04.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: 01 Jan 2012
Date of revision: 30 Aug 2013
Handle: RePEc:umb:econwp:1204
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Web page: http://www.umbc.edu/economics

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  13. Peter Rangazas, 2002. "The Quantity and Quality of Schooling and U.S. Labor Productivity Growth (1870-2000)," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(4), pages 932-964, October.
  14. David Card & Alan Krueger, 1996. "School Resources and Student Outcomes: An Overview of the Literature and New Evidence from North and South Carolina," NBER Working Papers 5708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Moehling, Carolyn M., 1999. "State Child Labor Laws and the Decline of Child Labor," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 72-106, January.
  18. Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Introduction to "Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860"," NBER Chapters, in: Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860, pages 1-5 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Hoyt Bleakley, 2007. "Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 73-117, 02.
  20. William Lord & Peter Rangazas, 2006. "Fertility and development: the roles of schooling and family production," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 229-261, September.
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