Skip to main content

Meta-analysis of the impact of age structure on fertility


The paper uses a meta-analysis to comparatively evaluate the literature addressing the aggregate relationship between a population’s age structure and fertility, as hypothesized by Richard Easterlin. The analysis is based on 334 estimated effects retrieved from 19 studies. The results suggest that several factors undermine the empirical support of the Easterlinian age structure/fertility link. These include the neglect of income, the use of relative cohort size to characterize the age structure, mis-specifications of the relevant age-cohorts, as well as the functional form and estimation technique. The results also suggest that the sample of published estimates possibly suffers from two types of publication bias, an under-representation of insignificant effects for small samples, and bias towards supportive effects in the earlier years followed by a bias towards negative effects as the literature matured.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brigitte Waldorf.

Additional information

All correspondence to: Brigitte Waldorf. The authors appreciate the insightful comments and suggestions from two anonymous reviewers. The research also benefited from discussions with participants of the International Colloquium on Meta-analysis in Economics, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, December 2002. Finally, we would like to thank David Brown, Meagan Cahill, Angela Donelson, Calvin Farris, and Melaney Seacat from the University of Arizona for their research assistance. Responsible editor: Junsen Zhang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Waldorf, B., Byun, P. Meta-analysis of the impact of age structure on fertility. J Popul Econ 18, 15–40 (2005).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

JEL classification:

  • B49
  • C80
  • J13


  • Meta-analysis
  • Easterlin hypothesis