Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 173–196 | Cite as

Religion as a determinant of marital fertility

  • Evelyn L. LehrerEmail author


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 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Azzi C, Ehrenberg R (1975) Household allocation of time and church attendance. Journal of Political Economy 83(l):27–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Becker GS (1991) A treatise on the family. Cambridge: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker GS (1993) Human capital: A theoretical and empirical analysis with special reference to education. Chicago: University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  4. Becker GS, Landes EM, Michael RT (1977) An economic analysis of marital instability. Journal of Political Economy 85(6):1141–1187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Billette A (1967) Conversion and consonance: A sociology of white American Catholic converts. Review of Religious Research 8 (2): 100–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Castleton A, Goldscheider FK (1989) Are Mormon families different? Household structure and family patterns. In: Goldscheider FK, Goldscheider C (eds) Ethnicity and the new family economy. Boulder: Westview Press, pp93–109Google Scholar
  7. Chiswick CU (1993) Determinants of Jewish intermarriage: Are Jews really different? Papers in Jewish Demography 33 (1):133–136Google Scholar
  8. Delia Pergola S (1980) Patterns of American Jewish fertility. Demography 17(3):261–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goldscheider C, Mosher WD (1991) Patterns of contraceptive use in the United States: The importance of religious factors. Studies in Family Planning 22 (2): 102–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Greeley A (1994) Sex: The Catholic experience. Allen, Texas: Tabor PublishingGoogle Scholar
  11. Heaton TB (1986) How does religion influence fertility? The case of Mormons. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 25(2):248–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heaton TB, Goodman KL (1985) Religion and family formation. Review of Religious Research 26(4):343–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Heckert A, Teachman JD (1985) Religious factors in the timing of second births. Journal of Marriage and the Family 47(2):361–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Iannaccone LR (1990) Religious practice: A human capital approach. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 29(3):297–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jones EF, Westoff CF (1979) The end of ’Catholic’ fertility. Demography 16(2):209–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kelley DM (1972) Why conservative churches are growing. New York: Harper and RowGoogle Scholar
  17. Lehrer EL (1995) The effects of religion on the labor supply of married women. Social Science Research 24:281–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lehrer EL (1996a) The determinants of marital stability: A comparative analysis of first and higher order marriages. In: Schultz TP (ed) Research in Population Economics (Forthcoming)Google Scholar
  19. Lehrer EL (1996b) The role of the husband’s religion in the economic and demographic behavior of families. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (Forthcoming)Google Scholar
  20. Lehrer EL (1996c) Assortative mating in the marriage market: The case of religion. Work in progressGoogle Scholar
  21. Lehrer EL, Chiswick C (1993) Religion as a determinant of marital stability. Demography 30(3):385–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lehrer EL, Grossbard-Shechtman S, Leasure JW (1996) Comment on ‘A theory of the value of children.’ Demography 33(1):133–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lehrer EL, Nerlove M (1984) The impact of child survival on husbands’ and wives’ desired fertility in Malaysia: A log-linear probability model. Social Science Research 13(3):236–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lillard L, Waite L (1993) A joint model of marital childbearing and marital disruption. Demography 30(4):653–682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lundberg S, Pollak RA (1993) Separate spheres bargaining and the marriage market. Journal of Political Economy 10(6):988–1010CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Manser M, Brown M (1980) Marriage and household decision-making: A bargaining analysis. International Economic Review 22:31–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marcum JP (1981) Explaining fertility differences among U.S. Protestants. Social Forces 60(2):532–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Marcum JP (1988) Religious affiliation, participation, and fertility: A cautionary note. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 27(4):621–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mayer E, Avgar A (1987) Conversion among the intermarried: Choosing to become Jewish. New York: American Jewish CommitteeGoogle Scholar
  30. McElroy MB, Homey MJ (1981) Nash-bargained household decisions: Toward a generalization of the theory of demand. International Economic Review 22:333–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Michael R (1979) Determinants of divorce. In: Levy-Garboua L (ed) Sociological economics. Beverly Hills: Sage, pp 223–254Google Scholar
  32. Mosher W, Hendershot G (1984a) Religion and fertility: A replication. Demography 21 (2):185–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mosher W, Hendershot G (1984b) Religion and fertility in the United States: The importance of marriage patterns and Hispanic origin. Demography 23(3):367–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mosher W, Johnson D, Horn M (1986) Religion and fertility in the United States: The importance of marriage patterns and Hispanic origin. Demography 23(3):367–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mosher WD, Williams LB, Johnson DP (1992) Religion and fertility in the United States: New patterns. Demography 29 (2): 199–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mott FL, Abma JC (1992) Differentials in marriage and fertility within the Jewish population. Presented at the Annual Meetings of the Population Association of America, DenverGoogle Scholar
  37. Nerlove M, Razin A (1981) Child spacing and numbers: An empirical analysis. In: Deaton A (ed) Essays in the theory and measurement of consumer behavior in honour of Sir Richard Stone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 297–324Google Scholar
  38. Newport F (1979) The religious switcher in the United States. American Sociological Review 44(4):528–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sander W (1992) Catholicism and the economics of fertility. Population Studies 46(3):477–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sander W (1993) Catholicism and marriage in the United States. Demography 30(3):373–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schneider SW (1989) Intermarriage — The challenge of living with differences between Christians and Jews. New York: Free PressGoogle Scholar
  42. Schultz TP (1990) Testing the neoclassical model of family labor supply and fertility. Journal of Human Resources 25(4):599–634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Thornton A (1979) Religion and fertility: The case of Mormonism. Journal of Marriage and the Family 41 (1):131–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Thornton A (1985) Reciprocal influences of family and religion in a changing world. Journal of Marriage and the Family 47(2):381–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tomes N (1983) Religion and the rate of return on human capital: Evidence from Canada. Canadian Journal of Economics 16(1):122–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Williams L, Zimmer B (1990) The changing influence of religion on U.S. fertility: Evidence from Rhode Island. Demography 27(3):475–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics (m/c 144)University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations