Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 347–383 | Cite as

Accounting for Fertility Decline During the Transition to Growth

  • Matthias Doepke


In every developed country, the economic transition from pre-industrial stagnation to modern growth was accompanied by a demographic transition from high to low fertility. Even though the overall pattern is repeated, there are large cross-country variations in the timing and speed of the demographic transition. What accounts for falling fertility during the transition to growth? To answer this question, this paper develops a unified growth model that delivers a transition from stagnation to growth, accompanied by declining fertility. The model is used to determine whether government policies that affect the opportunity cost of education can account for cross-country variations in fertility decline. Among the policies considered, education subsidies are found to have only minor effects, while accounting for child labor regulation is crucial. Apart from influencing fertility, the policies also determine the evolution of the income distribution in the course of development.

Growth fertility education child labor inequality 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acemoglu, D., and J. A. Robinson. (2001). “A Theory of Political Transitions,” American Economic Review 91(4), 938–963.Google Scholar
  2. Alam, I., and J. B. Casterline. (1984). Socio-Economic Differentials in Recent Fertility. World Fertility Survey Comparative Studies No. 33, Voorburg, Netherlands: International Statistical Institute.Google Scholar
  3. Barro, R. J., and J. W. Lee. (1993). “International Comparisons of Educational Attainment,” Journal of Monetary Economics 32, 363–394.Google Scholar
  4. Barro, R. J., and J. W. Lee. (2001). “Schooling Quality in a Cross Section of Countries,” Economica 68(272), 465–488.Google Scholar
  5. Becker, G. S., and R. J. Barro. (1988). A “Reformulation of the Economic Theory of Fertility,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 53(1), 1–25.Google Scholar
  6. Becker, G. S., K. M. Murphy, and R. Tamura. 1990. “Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth,” Journal of Political Economy 98, 12–37.Google Scholar
  7. Bloom, D. E., and J. G. Williamson. (1998). “Demographic Transitions and Economic Miracles in Emerging Asia,” World Bank Economic Review 12(3), 419–455.Google Scholar
  8. de la Croix, D., and M. Doepke. (2003). “Inequality and Growth: Why Differential Fertility Matters,” American Economic Review 93(4), 1091–1113.Google Scholar
  9. Chesnais, J. C. (1992). The Demographic Transition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dahan, M., and D. Tsiddon. (1998). “Demographic Transition, Income Distribution, and Economic Growth,” Journal of Economic Growth 3, 29–52.Google Scholar
  11. Deane, P., and W. A. Cole. (1969). British Economic Growth 1688–1959. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Deininger, K., and L. Squire. (1996). “A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality,” World Bank Economic Review 10(3), 565–591.Google Scholar
  13. Doepke, M. (2004). “Child Mortality and Fertility Decline: Does the Barro-Becker Model Fit the Facts?” Journal of Population Economics (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  14. Doepke, M., and F. Zilibotti. (2004). The Macroeconomics of Child Labor Regulation. Unpublished Manuscript, UCLA and IIES.Google Scholar
  15. Fernández-Villaverde, J. (2001). Was Malthus Right? Economic Growth and Population Dynamics. Unpublished Manuscript, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  16. Galor, O., and O. Moav. (2002). “Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 117(4), 1133–1192.Google Scholar
  17. Galor, O., and O. Moav. (2003). Das Human Kapital: A Theory of the Demise of the Class Structure. Unpublished Manuscript, Brown University and Hebrew University.Google Scholar
  18. Galor, O., O. Moav, and D. Vollrath. (2003). Land Inequality and the Origin of Divergence and Overtaking in the Growth Process: Theory and Evidence. Unpublished Manuscript, Brown University and Hebrew University.Google Scholar
  19. Galor, O., and A. Mountford. (2003). Trading Population for Productivity. Unpublished Manuscript, Brown University and Hebrew University.Google Scholar
  20. Galor, O., and D. N. Weil. (1996). “The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth,” American Economic Review 86(3), 375–387.Google Scholar
  21. Galor, O., and D. N. Weil. (2000). “Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond,” American Economic Review 90(4), 806–828.Google Scholar
  22. Greenwood, J., and A. Seshadri. (2002). “The US Demographic Transition,” American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings 92(2), 153–159.Google Scholar
  23. Hansen, G. D., and E. C. Prescott. (2002). “Malthus to Solow,” American Economic Review 92(4), 1205–1217.Google Scholar
  24. Haveman, R., and B. Wolfe. (1995). “The Determinants of Children's Attainments: A Review of Methods and Findings,” Journal of Economic Literature 33, 1829–1878.Google Scholar
  25. Hazan, M., and B. Berdugo. (2002). “Child Labor, Fertility, and Economic Growth,” The Economic Journal 112(482), 810–828.Google Scholar
  26. Horrell, S., and J. Humphries. (1995). “The Exploitation of Little Children: Child Labor and the Family Economy in the Industrial Revolution,” Explorations in Economic History 32, 485–516.Google Scholar
  27. International Labor Organization (ILO). Year Book of Labour Statistics, Various editions. Geneva: ILO.Google Scholar
  28. Jones, C. I. (2001). “Was an Industrial Revolution Inevitable? Economic Growth over the Very Long Run,” Advances in Macroeconomics 1(2), Article 1.Google Scholar
  29. Jones, E. F. (1982). Socio-Economic Differentials in Achieved Fertility. World Fertility Survey Comparative Studies No. 21, Voorburg, Netherlands: International Statistical Institute.Google Scholar
  30. Kalemli-Ozcan, S. (2002). “Does the Mortality Decline Promote Economic Growth?” Journal of Economic Growth 7(4), 411–439.Google Scholar
  31. Kögel, T., and A. Prskawetz. (2001). “Agricultural Productivity Growth and the Escape from the Malthusian Trap,” Journal of Economic Growth 6, 337–357.Google Scholar
  32. Knowles, J. (1999). Can Parental Decisions Explain US Income Inequality? Working paper, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  33. Kremer, M., and D. Chen. (2002). “Income Distribution Dynamics with Endogenous Fertility,” Journal of Economic Growth 7(3), 227–258.Google Scholar
  34. Kuznets, S. (1955). “Economic Growth and Income Inequality,” American Economic Review 45, 1–28.Google Scholar
  35. Lagerlöf, N.-P. (2003). “Gender Equality and Long-Run Growth,” Journal of Economic Growth 8(4), 403–426.Google Scholar
  36. Lee, R. D., and R. S. Schofield. (1981). “British Population in the Eighteenth Century,” in Floud, R., and D. McCloskey (eds.), The Economic History of Britain since 1700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Maddison, A. (1991). Dynamic Forces in Capitalist Development: A Long-Run Comparative View. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Margo, R. A., and T. A. Finegan. (1996). “Compulsory Schooling Legislation and School Attendance in Turn-of-the-Century America: A 'Natural Experiment' Approach,” Economics Letters 53, 103–110.Google Scholar
  39. Moav, O. (2005). “Cheap Children and the Persistence of Poverty,” The Economic Journal (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  40. Morand, O. F. (1999). “Endogenous Fertility, Income Distribution, and Growth,” Journal of Economic Growth 4(3), 331–349.Google Scholar
  41. Nardinelli, C. (1980). “Child Labor and the Factory Acts,” Journal of Economic History 40(4), 739–755.Google Scholar
  42. Ngai, L. R. (2000). Barriers and the Transition to Modern Growth. Unpublished Manuscript, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  43. Park, Y.-B., D. R. Ross, and R. H. Sabot. (1996). “Educational Expansion and the Inequality of Pay in Brazil and Korea,” in Birdsall, N., and R. H. Sabot (eds.), Opportunity Forgone: Education in Brazil. Inter-American Development Bank: Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  44. Preston, S. H., N. Keyfitz, and R. Schoen. (1972). Causes of Death: Life Tables for National Populations. New York: Seminar Press.Google Scholar
  45. Rosenzweig, M. R., and R. Evenson. (1977). “Fertility, Schooling, and the Economic Contribution of Children in Rural India: An Econometric Analysis,” Econometrica 45(5), 1065–1079.Google Scholar
  46. Tamura, R. (2002). “Human Capital and the Switch from Agriculture to Industry,” Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control 27, 207–242.Google Scholar
  47. United Nations. (1995). Women's Education and Fertility Behavior. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  48. Veloso, F. A. (1999). Income Composition, Endogenous Fertility and the Dynamics of Income Distribution. Unpublished Manuscript, University of Chicago.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Doepke
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUCLALos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Centre for Economic Policy ResearchLondonUnited Kingdom

Personalised recommendations