Growth and Childbearing in the Short- and Long-Run
Despite being key to theories of economic growth and the demographic transition, evidence on how fertility responds to aggregate income change is mixed. We analyze economic growth and fertility change in the developing world over six decades, using data on 2.3 million women from 255 surveys in 81 countries. We find that fertility responds differently to fluctuations and long-run growth, and the nature of these responses varies over the lifecycle. Fertility is procyclical, falling during recessions, but also declines with long-run growth. Lifetime fertility is affected by fluctuations near the end of the reproductive period but not those at prime reproductive age. Our results are consistent with models linking demography, human capital, and long-run growth, extended to include a lifecycle with liquidity constraints.
We thank David Canning, Janet Currie, Moshe Hazan, Richard Rogerson, as well as conference and seminar participants at Columbia, IFPRI, Princeton, Stanford, Tel Aviv, NBER Summer Institute, and PopPov for comments. Maria Canals, Chitra Marti, and Reka Zempleni provided outstanding research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.