Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 357-385

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The long-run determinants of fertility: one century of demographic change 1900–1999

  • Dierk HerzerAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg
  • , Holger StrulikAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of Göttingen Email author 
  • , Sebastian VollmerAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of GöttingenDepartment of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health


We examine the long-run relationship between fertility, mortality, and income using panel cointegration techniques and the available data for the last century. Our main result is that mortality changes and growth of income contributed to the fertility transition. The fertility reduction triggered by falling mortality, however, is not enough to overcompensate the positive effect of falling mortality on population growth. This means that growth of income per capita is essential to explain the observed secular decline of population growth. These results are robust to alternative estimation methods, potential outliers, sample selection, different measures of mortality, the sample period, the inclusion of education as an explanatory variable, and the use of different data sets. In addition, our causality tests suggest that fertility changes are both cause and consequence of economic development.


Fertility Mortality Economic development Panel cointegration

JEL Classification

J1 J13 C23