Fertility and Labor Market Responses to Reductions in Mortality

118 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018 Last revised: 9 Aug 2018

See all articles by Sonia Bhalotra

Sonia Bhalotra

University of Essex

Atheendar Venkataramani

University of Pennsylvania - Perelman School of Medicine

Selma Walther

University of Sussex - Department of Economics

Date Written: July 13, 2018

Abstract

We investigate women's fertility, labor and marriage market responses to large declines in child and maternal mortality that occurred following a major medical innovation in the US. In response to the decline in child mortality, women delayed childbearing and had fewer children overall. Fewer women had three or more children, and a larger share remained childless. We present a new theory of the extensive margin response, premised upon improvements in child survival reducing the time women need to achieve their target number of children. This prompts fertility delay and labor market entry which, coupled with wage or fecundity shocks, can result in childlessness. Consistent with these predictions, we find that reductions in child mortality increased women's labor force participation, improved their occupational status and reduced their chances of ever having married. Maternal mortality decline had opposing effects on all of these outcomes.

Keywords: women's labor force participation, fertility timing, childlessness, child mortality, maternal mortality, medical innovation

JEL Classification: J13, I18

Suggested Citation

Bhalotra, Sonia and Venkataramani, Atheendar and Walther, Selma, Fertility and Labor Market Responses to Reductions in Mortality (July 13, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3213304 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3213304

Sonia Bhalotra

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

Atheendar Venkataramani

University of Pennsylvania - Perelman School of Medicine ( email )

423 Guardian Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Selma Walther (Contact Author)

University of Sussex - Department of Economics ( email )

Sussex House
Falmer
Brighton, Sussex BNI 9RH
United Kingdom

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