Skip to main content

Child mortality and fertility decline: Does the Barro-Becker model fit the facts?


I compare the predictions of three variants of the altruistic parent model of Barro and Becker for the relationship between child mortality and fertility. In the baseline model fertility choice is continuous, and there is no uncertainty over the number of surviving children. The baseline model is contrasted to an extension with discrete fertility choice and stochastic mortality and a setup with sequential fertility choice. The quantitative predictions of the models are remarkably similar. While in each model the total fertility rate falls as child mortality declines, the number of surviving children increases. The results suggest that factors other than declining infant and child mortality are responsible for the large decline in net reproduction rates observed in industrialized countries over the last century.

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

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Financial support by the National Science Foundation (grant SES-0217051) and the UCLA Academic Senate is gratefully acknowledged. I thank Sebnem Kalemli-Oczan, Rodrigo Soares, and two anonymous referees for comments that helped to substantially improve the paper. Olesya Baker and Ilya Berger provided excellent research assistance.

Responsible editor: Junsen Zhang.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Doepke, M. Child mortality and fertility decline: Does the Barro-Becker model fit the facts?. J Popul Econ 18, 337–366 (2005).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

JEL classification

  • J13


  • Child mortality
  • fertility decline
  • sequential fertility choice