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Fertility and Scarcity in America

Fertility and Scarcity in America

Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Fertility and Scarcity in America
    Book Description:

    Scholars have charged population growth with lowering aggregate income per capita, depleting natural resources, reducing the quality of the environment, and causing more unequal distribution of income. Maintaining that the order of these concerns should be reversed, Peter H. Lindert emphasizes the tendency of higher fertility and population growth to heighten economic inequalities. His analysis also improves our knowledge of the ways in which economic developments affect fertility.

    The author develops an integrated model of fertility behavior featuring an original way of defining and measuring the relative cost of an extra child. U.S. fertility patterns in the twentieth century, he shows, are partially explained by the interplay of a model of intergenerational taste formation and fluctuation in relative child costs. His reinterpretation of patterns in the inequality of schooling and income in America highlights the role of fertility and other demographic forces. From the author's analysis it appears that concern over rapid population growth is more justified on income-distribution grounds than on grounds of effects on average per capita income. In showing that this is so, Professor Lindert describes how families' use of time has changed since the late nineteenth century.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7006-6
    Subjects: Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)

    • Chapter 1. The Issues
      (pp. 3-13)

      Since before Malthus, scholars have maintained a strong interest in both sides of the circle joining human fertility with the economy. The intuition persists that higher fertility, and population growth in general, must make natural resources more scarce and reduce material living standards, even though the data have not yet confirmed this pessimistic view. Scholars have also been recurrently fascinated by the possibility that economic forces may help us explain movements in fertility itself. This book takes up both kinds of issues. It seeks to redirect our concern over the economic consequences of higher fertility and population growth toward more...

    • Chapter 2. The Argument in Brief
      (pp. 14-34)

      The interactions between fertility and the economy are complex enough that any useful reinterpretation of them requires careful statements of both theory and evidence. For this reason the chapters and appendixes that follow are somewhat detailed. It is therefore helpful to survey the entire set of arguments and findings at the outset.

      Used with care, a model reinterpreting the economic part of fertility behavior is capable of resolving many of the puzzles relating to past fertility patterns. Chapter 3 develops a model of couples’ short-run fertility regulation. Though the model emphasizes short-run birth probabilities, it is also useful for analyzing...

  5. PART II: Economic Influences on Fertility

    • Chapter 3. Remodelling the Household for Fertility Analysis
      (pp. 37-82)

      The circle linking fertility and the economy is best grasped at the point of household decision-making. It is here that both the effects of family size on the economy and the influences of economic variables on fertility are revealed most clearly. To judge the economic consequences of family size we need a framework for describing how couples adjust their consumption, saving, work, and child care to shifts in parameters relating to childbearing. To follow the other side of the circle from wage rates, property rents, and other relative prices to fertility, we must again begin with a sound model of...

    • Chapter 4. The Relative Cost of American Children
      (pp. 83-136)

      One of the main hindrances to the development of a satisfactory economics of fertility has been the difficulty of defining and measuring a simple concept—the relative cost of a child. The problem is worth trying to solve. All of the issues regarding the effects of relative market prices on fertility center around this concept. To prepare the way for testing hypotheses about child costs and other fertility influences in Chapter 5, this chapter expands upon the theoretical introduction of the relative-cost concept of Chapter 3, and supplies measures of the variation in the cost of American children, over time...

    • Chapter 5. American Fertility Patterns Since the Civil War
      (pp. 137-178)

      The theory of fertility outlined in Chapter 3 and extended in Chapter 4 can be tested against American fertility patterns in recent decades. It turns out that the model is capable of explaining much, though not all, of the intriguing temporal and cross-sectional patterns of fertility in the United States.

      The same fascinating set of puzzles confronting the social scientist interested in the link between fertility and modernization in general reappears in the history of American fertility. There is, first, the long and fairly steady decline in the birth rate, by 60 percent or more, from 1800 or earlier to...


    • Chapter 6. Fertility and Investments in Children
      (pp. 181-215)

      The 1960s and the start of the 1970s were a period of agitation for less inequality and less discrimination, and also a period of concern over the consequences of high fertility and population growth. Yet the two sets of concerns were not joined. Christopher Jencks’ monumentalInequality(New York: Basic Books, 1972), for example, passed over family size (and other factors) as sources of inequality. The concern about fertility and population growth remained tied to the fight for environmental quality. Only occasionally was it even suggested that fertility and the expansion of the labor force might have been major determinants...

    • Chapter 7. Fertility, Labor Supply, and Inequality: the Macroeconomic Evidence
      (pp. 216-260)

      Chapter 6 found empirical support for the microeconomic, or strainon-family-resources, arguments and the strain-on-public-schools argument for expecting higher fertility to feed income inequality. These arguments stressed that higher fertility lowers the schooling and skills of labor-force entrants a generation later. This lowering of average laborforce quality and the accompanying acceleration in growth of the number of man-hours of labor available presumably bids down unskilled wage rates relative to skilled wage rates and especially relative to property returns, thereby heightening income inequality.

      Do these effects really add up to a strong relationship running from fertility through labor-force size and quality to...


    • Appendix A. The Job-Interruption Effect on Wage Rates as a Part of Child Cost
      (pp. 261-273)
    • Appendix B. The Work-Time Effects of Children in the Home: Regression Results
      (pp. 274-284)
    • Appendix C. Time Inputs into Siblings, 1967–68: Hypotheses and Estimates
      (pp. 285-321)
    • Appendix D. Net Effects of Children on Family Consumption Patterns, 1960–61 and 1889–90
      (pp. 322-345)
    • Appendix E. Total Child Costs and Child Inputs, 1960–61
      (pp. 346-373)
    • Appendix F. The Index of Relative Child Costs, 1900–70
      (pp. 374-380)
    • Appendix G. Selected Data Used in Regressions on State Child-Woman Ratios, 1900–70
      (pp. 381-390)
  8. Index
    (pp. 391-395)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 396-396)