, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 29–44 | Cite as

The effect of investment in children’s education on fertility in 1816 Prussia

  • Sascha O. Becker
  • Francesco Cinnirella
  • Ludger Woessmann
Original Paper


The interaction between investment in children’s education and parental fertility is crucial in recent theories of the transition from Malthusian stagnation to modern economic growth. This paper contributes to the literature on the child quantity–quality trade-off with new county-level evidence for Prussia in 1816, several decades before the demographic transition. We find a significant negative causal effect of education on fertility, which is robust to accounting for spatial autocorrelation. The causal effect of education is identified through exogenous variation in enrollment rates due to differences in landownership inequality. A comparison with estimates for 1849 suggests that the preference for quality relative to quantity might have increased during the first half of the nineteenth century.


Education Fertility Quantity–quality trade-off Unified growth theory 19th century Prussia 

JEL Classification

N33 I20 J13 



Comments from two anonymous referees and financial support by the Pact for Research and Innovation of the Leibniz Association are gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sascha O. Becker
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francesco Cinnirella
    • 2
    • 3
  • 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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