DP9121 Fecundity, Fertility and Family Reconstitution Data: The Child Quantity-Quality Trade-O Revisite

Author(s): Marc Klemp, Jacob Weisdorf
Publication Date: September 2012
Keyword(s): Child Quantity-Quality Trade-Off, Demographic Transition, Human Capital Formation, Industrial Revolution, Instrumental Variable Analysis
JEL(s): J13, N3, O10
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=9121

Growth theorists have recently argued that western nations grew rich by parents substituting child quantity (number of births) for child quality (education). Using family reconstitution data from historical England, we explore the causal link between family size and human capital of offspring measured by their literacy status and professional skills. We use a proxy of marital fecundity to instrument family size, finding that children of couples of low fecundity (and hence small families) were more likely to become literate and employed in a skilled profession than those born to couples of high fecundity (and hence large families). Robust to a variety of specifications, our findings are unusually supportive of the notion of a child quantity-quality trade-off, suggesting this could well have played a key role for the wealth of nations.