Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 173-196

First online:

Religion as a determinant of marital fertility

  • Evelyn L. LehrerAffiliated withDepartment of Economics (m/c 144), University of Illinois at Chicago Email author 

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This paper develops hypotheses about the effects of husbands’ and wives’ religious affiliations on fertility. The hypotheses are based on two central ideas. First, religions differ in their fertility norms and corresponding tradeoffs between the quality and quantity of children; differences in religious beliefs between husband and wife may thus lead to conflict regarding fertility decisions and possible resolution through bargaining. Second, a low level of religious compatibility between the spouses may raise the expected probability of marital dissolution and thereby decrease the optimal amount of investments in spouse-specific human capital. Analyses of data from the 1987—1988 National Survey of Families and Households conducted in the United States suggest that both of these effects play important roles in explaining the observed linkages between the religious composition of unions and fertility behavior.

JEL classification

Jl Jll J13

Key words

Religion Fertility marriage