Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 177–204 | Cite as

The trade-off between fertility and education: evidence from before the demographic transition

  • Sascha O. Becker
  • Francesco Cinnirella
  • Ludger Woessmann


The trade-off between child quantity and quality is a crucial ingredient of unified growth models that explain the transition from Malthusian stagnation to modern growth. We present first evidence that such a trade-off indeed existed already in the nineteenth century, exploiting a unique census-based dataset of 334 Prussian counties in 1849. Furthermore, we find that causation between fertility and education runs both ways, based on separate instrumental-variable models that instrument fertility by sex ratios and education by landownership inequality and distance to Wittenberg. Education in 1849 also predicts the fertility transition in 1880–1905.


Schooling Fertility transition Unified growth theory Nineteenth-century Prussia 

JEL Classification

N33 O15 I20 J13 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sascha O. Becker
    • 1
  • Francesco Cinnirella
    • 2
  • Ludger Woessmann
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.Ifo Institute for Economic ResearchMunichGermany
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of MunichMunichGermany

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