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Schooling, Fertility, and Married Female Labor Supply: What Role for Health?

Christelle Viauroux, Department of Economics
Monika Acosta, Department of Economics


Between the latter nineteenth century and the 1930s there was a dramatic revolution in American families. Family size continued its long-term decline, the schooling of older children expanded and the proportion of married females’ adulthood devoted to market-oriented activities increased. Over this same period there were significant reductions in mortality, especially among the young, and impressive reductions in morbidity. This paper considers all these trends jointly, modeling the changes in fertility, child schooling and lifetime married female labor supply as a consequence of exogenous changes in health. The project aims at quantifying the results using data from IPUMS (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series) using Panel data estimation techniques. Preliminary calibrations show that reductions in child mortality alone cannot explain the transformation of the American family. In sharp contrast, reductions in morbidity are found to lower fertility and increase education.