Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 185–201

Fertility and the economy

  • Gary S. Becker

DOI: 10.1007/BF00172092

Cite this article as:
Becker, G.S. J Popul Econ (1992) 5: 185. doi:10.1007/BF00172092


I relate the demand for children to parental incomes and the cost of rearing children — especially to the value of the time spent on child care and to public policies that change the cost of children. This paper also links the demand for children to investments in their human capital and other dimensions of the so-called quality of children. Fertility is shown to depend too on child and adult mortality, uncertainty about the sex of children — if there is a preference for boys, girls, or for variety — uncertainty about how long it takes to produce a conception, and other variables.

Since biological necessity dictates that succeeding generations overlap, it is not surprising that fertility in one generation influences the fertility of succeeding generations. The overlapping generations approach provides a useful framework for relating fertility choices to population growth and macroeconomic changes.

The modern approach to fertility leads to very different interactions between population growth and economic growth than is implied either by Malthusian or the usual neo-classical growth models. In particular, it provides a framework for analyzing how societies escape a Malthusian-like stagnating equilibrium and embark on the journey toward becoming modern economies, where per capita incomes, human capital, and physical capital all continue to grow, fertility declines to rather low levels, and married women participate extensively in the labor force.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary S. Becker
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Economics and SociologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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