DP8261 Fertility and the Plough

Author(s): Alberto F Alesina, Paola Giuliano, Nathan Nunn
Publication Date: February 2011
Keyword(s): cultural norms, fertility, plough
JEL(s): J13, O13
Programme Areas: Labour Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=8261

The current study finds that societies which historically engaged in plough agriculture today have lower fertility. We argue, and provide ethnographic evidence, that the finding is explained by the fact that with plough agriculture, children, like women, are relatively less useful in the field. The plough requires strength and eliminates the need for weeding, a task particularly suitable for women and children. This in turn generates a preference for fewer children, lowering fertility.