Maternal Health and the Baby Boom

57 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2010 Last revised: 15 Aug 2010

See all articles by Stefania Albanesi

Stefania Albanesi

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Claudia Olivetti

Boston College; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2010

Abstract

U.S. fertility rose from a low of 2.27 children for women born in 1908 to a peak of 3.21 children for women born in 1932. It dropped to a new low of 1.74 children for women born in 1949, before stabilizing for subsequent cohorts. We propose a novel explanation for this boom-bust pattern, linking it to the huge improvements in maternal health that started in the mid 1930s. Our hypothesis is that the improvements in maternal health contributed to the mid-twentieth century baby boom and generated a rise in women's human capital, ultimately leading to a decline in desired fertility for subsequent cohorts. To examine this link empirically, we exploit the large cross-state variation in the magnitude of the decline in pregnancy-related mortality and the differential exposure by cohort. We find that the decline in maternal mortality is associated with a rise in fertility for women born between 1921 and 1940, with a rise in college and high school graduation rates for women born in 1933-1950, and with a decline in fertility for women born in 1941-1950. These findings are consistent with a theory of fertility featuring a trade-off between the quality and quantity of children. The analysis provides new insights on the determinants of fertility in the U.S. and other countries that experienced similar improvements in maternal health.

Suggested Citation

Albanesi, Stefania and Olivetti, Claudia, Maternal Health and the Baby Boom (July 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w16146. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1635669

Stefania Albanesi (Contact Author)

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics ( email )

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New York, NY 10027
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HOME PAGE: http://www.columbia.edu/~sa2310/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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United Kingdom

Claudia Olivetti

Boston College ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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