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Desired fertility and the impact of population policies

  • Pritchett, Lant H.
  • DEC

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.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 1273.

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Date of creation: 31 Mar 1994
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1273
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  1. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Schultz, T. Paul, 1987. "Fertility and Investments in Human Capital: Estimates of the Consequences of Imperfect Fertility Control in Malaysia," Bulletins 7513, University of Minnesota, Economic Development Center.
  2. 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.
  3. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 1993. "Losers and Winners in Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 4341, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1986. "On Measuring Child Costs: With Applications to Poor Countries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 720-44, August.
  5. Summers, Lawrence H., 1992. "Investing in all the people," Policy Research Working Paper Series 905, The World Bank.
  6. Deborah DeGraff, 1991. "Increasing contraceptive use in Bangladesh: The role of demand and supply factors," Demography, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 65-81, February.
  7. 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.
  8. Barro, Robert J. & Lee, Jong-Wha, 1993. "International comparisons of educational attainment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 363-394, December.
  9. 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.
  10. Schultz, T. Paul, 1988. "Population programs: Measuring their impact on fertility and the personal distribution of their effects," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 113-139, April.
  11. 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.
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