Love and Life between the Censuses

A Model of Family Decision Making in Puerto Rico, 1950-1960

by Marc Nerlove, T. P. Schultz

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Presents a family formation model composed of simultaneous equations expressing the interactions among birth rate, women's employment, migration, income level, and incidence of legal and consensual marriages, as affected by death rates, educational levels, employment opportunities, unemployment rates, and initial population structure. Using 1950-1960 data from 75 Puerto Rican [municipios], birth rates were found to be strongly related to death rates three or four years earlier (presumably because of children's deaths). Marital arrangements were strongly determined by relative male/female earning power: higher demand for female labor was consistently associated with fewer legal and more consensual unions. (Overall, men's income was four times women's income.) Total real income per person aged 15 to 65 was weakly but consistently associated with birth rate. Much work remains to transform the model into a reliable guide for simulating the effects of different public policies, but this exploratory version demonstrates the feasibility of a unified analytic approach to elements usually considered separately.

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