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Child mortality, fertility, and human capital accumulation

Abstract

This article analyzes the impact of decline in child mortality on fertility and economic growth. The study shows that the timing of mortality relative to education is crucial to implications of mortality decline. If child mortality is realized before education starts, an exogenous decline in child mortality leads to a decline in education—a finding that is opposite to those of studies that considered a decline in mortality after the cost of education has been incurred. The work also demonstrates the role of parental human capital in reducing child mortality and the causal link between rising education and declining child mortality.

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Notes

  1. See, for example, Preston (1978) for a collection of demographic essays that come to such conclusion and Palloni and Rafalimanana (1999) for a broad survey of literature; see also Rutstein (1974), Chowdhury et al. (1976), Balakrishnan (1978), Olsen (1980), and Olsen and Wolpin (1983). Exceptional results obtained by Schultz (1969)—that a decline in child death rate is associated with a fully compensating decline in birth rate—are suspect, since in his analysis of Puerto Rican data over the 1951–1957 period, crude death rate was used as a proxy for child death rate.

  2. Others (e.g., Becker and Barro 1988; Barro and Becker 1989; Dahan and Tsiddon 1998) suggest that exogenous mortality decline may increase fertility. Dyson and Murphy (1985) present an excellent survey of a predecline increase in fertility that many countries experienced in the fairly recent past.

  3. In such a setting, a lower level of fertility actually implies a decrease in child survival probability. This assumption is not consistent with the large empirical literature that has overwhelmingly shown the positive effect of fertility reduction on children's survival chances (e.g., LeGrand and Philips 1996; Palloni and Rafalimanana 1999 and references therein).

  4. The growth of literature on endogenous fertility has evolved through three phases. Initially, researchers developed models in which interactions between fertility and growth are consistent, with a negative relationship observed in cross-county growth regressions, as in Becker and Barro (1988), Barro and Becker (1989), and Becker et al. (1990). Subsequently, the focus switched toward models that discuss demographic transition and offer diverse explanations (e.g., Galor and Weil 1996; Dahan and Tsiddon 1998; Morand 1999). Later on, researchers focused on the long-term transition from stagnation to growth (e.g., Galor and Weil 2000). Most recently, Azarnert (2004) introduced an analysis of interactions between income redistribution, fertility, and growth in an economy that operates in an open world (see also, e.g., Galor and Moav 2001 for references).

  5. Morand (1999) justifies parental care spending from the total income of children by the old-age-support motive. In fact, this formulation is equivalent to:

    $$U_{t} = {\left( {1 - \beta } \right)}\log C_{t} + \beta \log {\left( {N_{t} wh_{{t + 1}} } \right)},$$

    where N t+1 is the number of surviving children. This utility function has been recently used by, e.g., Galor and Weil 2000; Kalemli-Ozcan 2002, 2003; cf. also Galor and Moav 2002; Moav 2005.

  6. The time constraint requires that 0≤1−[δ 1+p t (δ 2+(e t /h t ))]B t ≤1.

  7. An assumption that \(\theta > {\left( {{\left( {\gamma \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {\gamma {{\left( {1 - \gamma } \right)}}}} \right. \kern-\nulldelimiterspace} {{\left( {1 - \gamma } \right)}}} \right)}{\left( {1 + {\left( {{\delta _{2} } \mathord{\left/ {\vphantom {{\delta _{2} } {\delta _{1} }}} \right. \kern-\nulldelimiterspace} {\delta _{1} }} \right)}} \right)}} \right)}^{{ - \gamma }} \) rules out the possibility that, in the starting period t, skilled parents with h t ≥1/δ 1 will find it lucrative not to invest in their offspring's human capital.

  8. For a better interpretation of this result, note that, in Europe during the Industrial Revolution, rapid economic growth coexisted with mortality increase (see, e.g., van de Walle 1986; Deaton 2001 and references therein).

  9. Given that \(h_{{t + 1}} = \max {\left\{ {1,{\left( {\frac{\gamma } {{1 - \gamma }}{\left( {{\left( {\delta _{1} h_{t} } \right)}^{{\frac{{\alpha - 1}} {\alpha }}} + \delta _{2} h_{t} } \right)}} \right)}^{\gamma } } \right\}}\) for the offspring of parents with human capital levels lower than 1/δ 1, an increase in α may also cause some parents to substitute investment in quantity for investment in both quality and quantity.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to Daniel Tsiddon for many helpful discussions. I also thank Zvi Hercowitz, Assaf Razin, and Efraim Sadka for valuable suggestions. Comments of an anonymous referee, which helped to substantially improve this paper, are gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Leonid V. Azarnert.

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Responsible editor: Alessandro Cigno

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Azarnert, L.V. Child mortality, fertility, and human capital accumulation. J Popul Econ 19, 285–297 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-005-0020-4

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Keywords

  • Child mortality
  • Fertility
  • Human capital
  • Economic growth

JEL Classification

  • O11
  • O15
  • J13