American Economic Review: Vol. 103 No. 6 (October 2013)


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How the West "Invented" Fertility Restriction

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Voigtländer, Nico, and Hans-Joachim Voth. 2013. "How the West "Invented" Fertility Restriction." American Economic Review, 103(6): 2227-64.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.6.2227


We analyze the emergence of the first socioeconomic institution in history limiting fertility: west of a line from St. Petersburg to Trieste, the European Marriage Pattern (EMP) reduced childbirths by approximately one-third between the fourteenth and eighteenth century. To explain the rise of EMP we build a two-sector model of agricultural production—grain and livestock. Women have a comparative advantage in animal husbandry. After the Black Death in 1348–1350, land abundance triggered a shift toward the pastoral sector. This improved female employment prospects, leading to later marriages. Using detailed data from England, we provide strong evidence for our mechanism.

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Voigtländer, Nico (UCLA)
Voth, Hans-Joachim (U Pompeu Fabra)

JEL Classifications

J12: Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure; Domestic Abuse
J13: Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
J16: Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
N33: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: Europe: Pre-1913
N53: Economic History: Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment, and Extractive Industries: Europe: Pre-1913
Q11: Agriculture: Aggregate Supply and Demand Analysis; Prices

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