Fertility Choice, Mortality Expectations, and Interdependent Preferences

An Empirical Analysis

Published In: European Economic Review, v. 63, Oct. 2013, p. 273-289

Posted on RAND.org on October 01, 2013

by David Canning, Isabel Günther, Sebastian Linnemayr, David Bloom

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We investigate the empirical relationship between child mortality and fertility across 46 low and middle income countries. Specifically, we model the effect of mortality expectations and interdependent fertility preferences on fertility. The direct marginal effect of mortality expectations on fertility is larger than zero but less than unity. This implies that a decrease in mortality rates leads to a decrease in children born but to an increase in the number of surviving children and hence the rate of population growth. Taking into account interdependent fertility preferences, whereby an individual's fertility choice affects the fertility decisions of others, the marginal effect of mortality expectations on fertility becomes one. Hence, if we allow for both mortality expectations and the amplifying effect of interdependent fertility preferences, a decrease in child mortality has no net effect on the rate of population growth.

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