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The uncertain lifetime and the timing of human capital investment


I examine the effects of mortality decline on fertility and human capital investment decision of parents taking into account the uncertainty about child survival. I propose a model, where parents decide on their fertility before the uncertainty is realized, but they choose to invest only in human capital of their surviving children. The model implies a positive relationship between mortality and fertility and a negative one between mortality and educational investment. It has been argued elsewhere that as, in reality, most of the mortality decline occurred in infancy, it should not affect the human capital investment decision, which comes later in life. Thus, increased survival chances should not promote growth by raising the human capital investment. This paper argues the contrary and proposes a mechanism where mortality decline at any age before the teen years can promote growth by raising human capital investment regardless of the timing of the educational investment.

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Correspondence to Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan.

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Responsible editor : Alessandro Cigno

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Kalemli-Ozcan, S. The uncertain lifetime and the timing of human capital investment. J Popul Econ 21, 557–572 (2008).

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  • Human capital investment
  • Survival probability
  • Economic growth

JEL Classification

  • O40
  • I12
  • J11