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Explaining the Revolution in U.S. Fertility, Schooling, and Women’s Work among Households Formed in 1875, 1900, and 1925

Matthias Cinyabuguma, William Lord and Christelle Viauroux

A chapter in Factors Affecting Worker Well-being: The Impact of Change in the Labor Market, 2014, vol. 40, pp 1-78 from Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Abstract: This paper addresses revolutionary changes in the education, fertility and market work of U.S. families formed in the 1870s–1920s: Fertility fell from 5.3 to 2.6; the graduation rate of their children increased from 7% to 50%; and the fraction of adulthood wives devoted to market-oriented work increased from 7% to 23% (by one measure). These trends are addressed within a unified framework to examine the ability of several proposed mechanisms to quantitatively replicate these changes. Based on careful calibration, the choices of successive generations of representative husband-and-wife households over the quantity and quality of their children, household production, and the extent of mother’s involvement in market-oriented production are simulated. Rising wages, declining mortality, a declining gender wage gap, and increased efficiency and public provision of schooling cannot, individually or in combination, reduce fertility or increase stocks of human capital to levels seen in the data. The best fit of the model to the data also involves: (1) a decreased tendency among parents to view potential earnings of children as the property of parents and (2) rising consumption shares per dependent child. Greater attention should be given the determinants of parental control of the work and earnings of children for this period. One contribution is the gathering of information and strategies necessary to establish an initial baseline, and the time paths for parameters and targets for this period beset with data limitations. A second contribution is identifying the contributions of various mechanisms toward reaching those calibration targets.

Keywords: American family; quantity-quality trade-off; convergence; high school movement; married female labor force participation rate; I21; J13; J22; N31; N32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
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DOI: 10.1108/S0147-912120140000040001

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