The Historical Fertility Transition: A Guide for Economists

43 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2010

See all articles by Timothy W. Guinnane

Timothy W. Guinnane

Yale University - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: October 15, 2010

Abstract

The historical fertility transition is the process by which much of Europe and North America went from high to low fertility in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This transformation is central to recent accounts of long-run economic growth. Prior to the transition, women bore as many as eight children each, and the elasticity of fertility with respect to incomes was positive. Today, many women have no children at all, and the elasticity of fertility with respect to incomes is zero or even negative. This paper discusses the large literature on the historical fertility transition, focusing on what we do and do not know about the process. I stress some possible misunderstandings of the demographic literature, and discuss an agenda for future work.

Keywords: Fertility Transition, Long-Run Growth, Malthusian Models, Quantity-Quality Trade-Off

JEL Classification: N3, O1, O4

Suggested Citation

Guinnane, Timothy W., The Historical Fertility Transition: A Guide for Economists (October 15, 2010). Yale Economics Department Working Paper No. 84; Yale University Economic Growth Center Discussion Paper No. 990. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1692848 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1692848

Timothy W. Guinnane (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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