Escaping Malthus: Economic Growth and Fertility Change in the Developing World
- American Economic Review (Forthcoming)
Following mid-20th century predictions of Malthusian catastrophe, fertility in the developing
world more than halved, while living standards more than doubled. We analyze how fertility
change related to economic growth during this episode, using data on 2.3 million women from
255 household surveys. We find different responses to fluctuations and long-run growth, both
heterogeneous over the lifecycle. Fertility was procyclical but declined and delayed with long-run
growth; fluctuations late (but not early) in the reproductive period affected lifetime fertility.
The results are consistent with models of the escape from the Malthusian trap, extended with a
lifecycle and liquidity constraints.
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