Superstition, family planning, and human development
Are wanted and unwanted children treated equally by their parents? To address this question, the authors rely on the observation that, according to Vietnamese astrology, dates of birth are believed to be determinants of success, luck, character, and good match between individuals. They then examine fertility decisions made in Vietnam between 1976 and 1996. The authors find that birth cohorts in auspicious years are significantly larger than in other years. Children born in auspicious years moreover do better both in health and education. While parental characteristics seem to affect fertility choices and human development simultaneously, their analysis suggests that family planning is one key mechanism leading to the observed differences in outcomes: in a society in which superstition is widespread, children born in auspicious years are more likely to have been planned by their parents, thus benefiting from more favorable financial, psychological, or emotional conditions for better human development.
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