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Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition

Alan Fernihough

Journal of Economic Growth, 2017, vol. 22, issue 1, 35-65

Abstract: Abstract This paper provides an empirical test of the child quantity–quality (QQ) trade-off predicted by unified growth theory. Using individual census returns from the 1911 Irish census, we examine whether children who attended school were from smaller families—as predicted by a standard QQ model. To measure causal effects, we use a selection of models robust to endogeneity concerns which we validate for this application using an Empirical Monte Carlo analysis. Our results show that a child remaining in school between the ages of 14 and 16 caused up to a 27 % reduction in fertility. Our results are robust to alternative estimation techniques with different modeling assumptions, sample selection, and alternative definitions of fertility. These findings highlight the importance of the demographic transition as a mechanism which underpinned the expansion in human capital witnessed in Western economies during the twentieth century.

Keywords: Quantity–quality; Human capital; Demographic transition; Unified growth theory (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J10 N3 O10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:22:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10887-016-9138-3