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Consequences of war: Japan’s demographic transition and the marriage market

Abstract

This study explores the effects of imbalances in the sex ratio on both the quantity and the quality of children, with a focus on changes in intra-household bargaining power. We first present a theoretical model of intra-household bargaining in the presence of conflicting family goals within a couple, and show that male scarcity (a decrease in the male-to-female sex ratio) induces an increase in the number of children and a decrease in the quality of children. Second, using the impact of World War II on the sex ratio as a quasi-natural experiment, we establish empirically that the decrease in the male-to-female sex ratio in World War II contributed to a smaller decline in fertility and child mortality rates in postwar Japan. In particular, the fertility rate would have fallen by an additional 12% and the child mortality rate by an additional 13% between 1948 and 1970 absent the decrease in the sex ratio.

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Notes

  1. Since the seminal works by Becker, numerous studies have documented the role of the quantity-quality trade-off with regard to children (see Becker and Lewis 1973; Becker and Barro 1988; Barro and Becker 1989; Becker et al. 1990. The underlying mechanism of Becker’s theory, the shift toward quality, is led by preference, i.e., the higher elasticity of child quality with respect to income. On the contrary, the unified growth theory, in the vein of Galor and Weil (2000) and Galor and Moav (2002), explains this shift as the change in the relative net returns between child quality and quantity triggered by an event such as the Industrial Revolution, which drastically improves the returns from education. Recent studies using historical events, focusing on the quality-quantity trade-off of children, support the quality and quantity trade-off, thereby, favoring the latter explanation (Galor 2012; Fernihough 2017; Shiue 2017; Klemp and Weisdorf 2018). These findings on the interrelation between economic growth and family planning by households suggest that a shift toward quality can benefit the overall economy. Departing from these existing studies, we adopt a non-unitary model to attempt to explain the negative relation between the quantity and quality of children from the perspective of the sex ratio and intra-household bargaining over family planning. For excellent surveys, see Doepke (2015) and Fernihough (2017).

  2. See Testa (2006) and Westoff (2010).

  3. Women’s liberation can also alter the power balance within a marriage by affecting the outside options of the current marital relationship (Doepke and Tertilt 2009; Fernandez 2014).

  4. In developing countries, the marriage systems may be based on a polygamous marriage market, in which case there are adjustments to the prices of brides and grooms and to the quantity of each (Becker 2014; Grossbard 1980, 2014).

  5. Although the higher quantity and the lower quality of children generally lead to an economic slowdown, the manpower of the baby boomer generation is considered to have underpinned the rapid economic growth in Japan.

  6. The details of the trends in birth control during the pre-war period are described in Online Appendix A.1 of Ogasawara and Komura (2021).

  7. The annual data of Japanese TFR is stably and continuously available from 1947. The TFR was 4.54 in that year, the highest in the postwar period, 3.65 in 1950, 2.37 in 1955, and 2.00 in 1960.

  8. The sex ratio decreased sharply after 1937, when the wartime regime began to draft men into the army, and dropped to 0.95 in 1940, just before the start of the Pacific War, reaching less than 0.8 by the end of the war in 1945. The sex ratio recovered dramatically by 0.13, from 0.79 in 1945 to 0.92 in 1947. This considerable change within a relatively short time was undoubtedly caused by repatriated soldiers (Online Appendix B of Ogasawara and Komura (2021) for further details). Importantly, most of the repatriation had finished by 1947, after which the sex ratio barely increased.

  9. Today, apart from different historical and cultural backgrounds and meanings of out-of-wedlock children, the ratio of children born out of wedlock is quite low in Japan, at 2.3%, while the average ratio of OECD countries was 39.9% in 2014.

  10. Becker (1974) shows that the demand for wives is higher under polygyny than under monogamy, and that for a given supply of women, their market value and access to marital income will increase. Thus, he claims that laws against polygyny reduce the “demand” for women, and thus, reduce their share of total household output, while increasing that for men.

  11. This assumption corresponds to the interpretation in Nash bargaining that the reservation utility of marriage (i.e., the single state) is lower than the utility levels achieved by any bargaining outcomes under marriage.

  12. The assumption that only women take responsibility for childcare is justified if the time spent by mothers and fathers are perfect substitutes, and if the women’s wage rates are lower than their husbands.

  13. Chiappori et al. (2002) show other elements of legislation systems. Legislation systems can lead to a favorable position for one party, depending on whether they are utilitarian or egalitarian systems (Chiappori et al. 2002; Cigno 2012; Doepke and Tertilt 2009; Fernandez2014). If the latter is employed by the state, the party in the economically unfavorable position can secure a certain level of income, even after a divorce (breakdown of the marriage).

  14. The identification strategy used in this study is similar to that employed by Abramitzky et al. (2011). To study the impact of male scarcity on marital assortative matching and other marriage market outcomes, they utilized the geographical variation of the military mortality rate across départments during World War I in France.

  15. This means that our main variable could also capture the changes in the sex ratio due to air attacks on the Japanese archipelago during the war. Potential issues with our main variable relate to rumors about areas exposed to atomic bombs and physical disruptions due to the attacks. These might correlate with the changes in the sex ratio during the period just before and after the war. Although we do not report the full results, we have confirmed that our main results remain largely unchanged if we include the interaction term between the air attack death rate and the postwar dummy (Online Appendix B of Ogasawara and Komura (2021)).

  16. For the general fertility rate, we use the number of women ages 15–44 rather than the number of married women. This is because the proportion of illegitimate births to total births is relatively small in Japan, as bigamy is prohibited by law. In fact, the average proportion of illegitimate births (i.e., the proportion per 1000 live births) between 1948 and 1970 was only 1.5% (Cabinet Bureau of Statistics, various years).

  17. For further details on these Japanese physical examinations, see Ogasawara (2017) and Schneider and Ogasawara (2018). Here, we use the height at age 6 rather than at later ages to capture the instantaneous effects of changes in the marriage market on child height.

  18. As the precise number of females ages 15–44 is recorded in the census years (1925, 1930, 1935, 1950, 1955, 1960, 1965, 1970), we linearly interoperated the number of females ages 15–44 in the non-census years. This is because we are interested in the varying effects of the change in the sex ratio in the marriage market on the general fertility rate, as expressed in Eq. 2. However, we have confirmed that this interpolation does not matter; we obtain virtually the same baseline estimate (i.e., 220 per mille) using the census years (note that in column (1) of Table 2, the estimate is 214 per mille). In Online Appendix D.2 of Ogasawara and Komura (2021), we have confirmed that our main results are also similar to those obtained using the crude birth rate. However, we do not prefer using the crude birth rate as our main outcome variable because it is more likely to be influenced by the male casualties in the war. Similarly, we do not use the marital fertility rate (defined as the number of live births per 1000 married women) as our main outcome variable, because this is more likely to be influenced by the existence of women of non-childbearing age.

  19. From 1925 to 1970, excluding the wartime period (1937–1945) and the period immediately after the war (1945–1947). We confirm the stationarity in our panel dataset. For all outcome variables used in our analysis, several tests reject the null of unit-root non-stationarity (Online Appendix D.1 of Ogasawara and Komura (2021)). Note that we do not use the regression difference-in-differences models using the continuous shock variable. This is because although the approach requires the continuous measure of both sex ratio and outcome variables over time, both data are discontinuous at the wartime period, and thus, the dramatic changes in the sex ratio could not be captured continuously. Moreover, panel data on the continuous measure of the sex ratio are unavailable throughout the sampled period.

  20. This variable takes the value “one” for 1950–1970 and “zero” otherwise.

  21. We specify the model similar to Naidu and Yuchtman (2013), who use the interaction term between the cross-sectional treatment variation and the post-event dummy as a key variable of interest.

  22. We assign the value zero to negative values in the calculation of the counterfactual child mortality rate.

  23. Note that if we choose an alternative baseline year, the point estimates change in all models.

  24. Although we focus on the effect of the shock in the marriage market on demographic trends in monogamy systems, Neelakantan and Tertilt (2008) comprehensively consider the interdependence among the marriage market system, the spousal age gap of couples, and population growth, treating all of them as endogenous variables. According to their study, the narrowed spousal age gap is likely to coexist with the monogamy system.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the editor, Oded Galor, Madeline Zavodny, and two referees of this journal for their detailed and constructive comments. We are also grateful to Dirk Bethmann, Sonia Bhalotra, Alessandro Cigno, Neil Cummins, Taiyo Fukai, Daiji Kawaguchi, Yukitoshi Matsushita, Kentro Nakajima, Ryoji Ohdoi, Hikaru Ogawa, Kenta Tanaka, Kensuke Teshima, Masaru Sasaki, Masayuki Yagasaki, Shintaro Yamaguchi, and all the participants of the Kansai Seminar for Studies on Labor, Tokyo Labor Economics Workshop, Society of Economics of the Household, Western Economic Association International, Japanese-American-German Frontiers of Science Symposium 2017, 7th Kyoto Summer Workshop, Asian and Australasian Society of Labour Economics, and seminars held at Nagoya University, Kyoto University, Daitobunka University, and Chukyo University. All errors are our own.

Funding

This study is supported by JSPS KAKENHI (Grant Numbers 15K17074, 16K17153, and 18K01661). Support from the Tokyo Institute of Technology for Ogasawara’s visit to the London School of Economics also helped this study. Komura is received support from the project “Building of Consortia for the Development of Human Resources in Science and Technology.” She also received support from Murata Overseas Scholarship Foundation for her visit to the University of Florence. All errors are our own.

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Ogasawara, K., Komura, M. Consequences of war: Japan’s demographic transition and the marriage market. J Popul Econ 35, 1037–1069 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-021-00826-5

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Keywords

  • Quantity-quality trade-off of children
  • Bargaining power
  • Marriage market
  • Sex ratio

JEL Classification

  • J11
  • J12
  • J13
  • J16
  • N15
  • N35