The trade-off between fertility and education: evidence from before the demographic transition

Abstract

The trade-off between child quantity and quality is a crucial ingredient of unified growth models that explain the transition from Malthusian stagnation to modern growth. We present first evidence that such a trade-off indeed existed already in the nineteenth century, exploiting a unique census-based dataset of 334 Prussian counties in 1849. Furthermore, we find that causation between fertility and education runs both ways, based on separate instrumental-variable models that instrument fertility by sex ratios and education by landownership inequality and distance to Wittenberg. Education in 1849 also predicts the fertility transition in 1880–1905.

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Correspondence to Sascha O. Becker.

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Becker, S.O., Cinnirella, F. & Woessmann, L. The trade-off between fertility and education: evidence from before the demographic transition. J Econ Growth 15, 177–204 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10887-010-9054-x

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Keywords

  • Schooling
  • Fertility transition
  • Unified growth theory
  • Nineteenth-century Prussia

JEL Classification

  • N33
  • O15
  • I20
  • J13