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Desired fertility and the impact of population policies

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  • Pritchett, Lant H.
  • DEC

Abstract

Ninety percent of the differences across countries in total fertility rates are accounted for solely by differences in women's reported desired fertility. Using desired fertility constructed from both retrospective and prospective questions, together with instrumental variables estimation, it is shown this strong result is not affected by either ex-post rationalization of births nor the dependence of desired fertility on contraceptive access or cost. Moreover, despite the obvious role of contraception as a proximate determinant of fertility, the additional effect of contraceptive availability or family planning on fertility is quantitatively small and explains very little cross country variation. These empirical results are consistent with theories in which fertility is determined by parent's choices about children within the social, educational, economic, and cultural environment that parents, and especially women, face. They contradict theories that assert a large causal role for expansion of contraception in the reduction of fertility.

Suggested Citation

  • Pritchett, Lant H. & DEC, 1994. "Desired fertility and the impact of population policies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1273, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1273
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Paul Schultz, T., 1987. "Fertility and investments in human capital : Estimates of the consequence of imperfect fertility control in Malaysia," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1-2), pages 163-184.
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    7. Kelley, Allen C, 1988. "Economic Consequences of Population Change in the Third World," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(4), pages 1685-1728, December.
    8. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Schultz, T Paul, 1985. "The Demand for and Supply of Births: Fertility and Its Life Cycle Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 992-1015, December.
    9. Thomas J. Espenshade & Charles A. Calhoun, 1986. "The dollars and cents of parenthood," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 5(4), pages 813-817.
    10. Peter H. Lindert, 1980. "Child Costs and Economic Development," NBER Chapters,in: Population and Economic Change in Developing Countries, pages 5-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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