Childless Aristocrats. Inheritance and the Extensive Margin of Fertility

72 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2018

See all articles by Paula Gobbi

Paula Gobbi

Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) - School of Economic and Social Research (IRES)

Marc Goñi

University of Vienna

Date Written: February 2018

Abstract

We provide new evidence on the two-way link between fertility decisions on the extensive margin and inheritance. We focus on settlements, a popular inheritance scheme among British aristocrats that combined primogeniture and a one-generation entail of the family estates. Using peerage records (1650-1882), we find that settlements affected the extensive margin of fertility: they reduced childlessness rates by 14.7 pp., ensuring the survival of aristocratic dynasties. Since settlements were signed only if the family head survived until his heir's wedding, we establish causality by exploiting variation in the heirs birth order. Next, we show that the extensive margin of fertility can shape inheritance rules. We build a model with inter-generational hyperbolic discounting where inheritance rules affect fertility and, in turn, schemes restricting successors (e.g., settlements or trusts) emerge endogenously in response to concerns over the dynasty's survival. These results highlight the importance of fertility decisions for the analysis of inheritance.

Keywords: Childlessness, Elites, Fertility, Inheritance, Inter-generational discounting., Settlement

JEL Classification: J13, K36, N33

Suggested Citation

Gobbi, Paula and Goñi, Marc, Childless Aristocrats. Inheritance and the Extensive Margin of Fertility (February 2018). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12744. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3130183

Paula Gobbi (Contact Author)

Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) - School of Economic and Social Research (IRES) ( email )

3, Place Montesquieu
1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
Belgium

Marc Goñi

University of Vienna ( email )

Oskar Morgenstern Platz 1
Vienna, Vienna 1090
Austria

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