Fertility Responses to Reductions in Infant and Maternal Mortality: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from 20th Century AmericaISER External Seminars

The introduction of the first antibiotics in the United States in the late 1930s led to simultaneous sharp drops in infant and maternal mortality, lower morbidity, and increased investment in the education of survivors. We investigate fertility responses to the antibiotic revolution, exploiting state variation in the pre-intervention burden of treatable diseases. Consistent with theoretical predictions, we find that the decline in maternal mortality induces an increase in fertility while, at the same time, the decline in infant mortality induces a decrease in fertility. The latter is only at the intensive margin. The extensive margin response is positive, consistent with the notion of “essential complementarity” underlined in a recent extension of the canonical model. These results demonstrate that while there is a well-identified quantity-quality tradeoff, alongside there is an extensive margin response to improved child quality that leads to lower childlessness and hence a compression of the distribution of fertility in the population. This study also flag the importance of recognizing that often the forces that lead to lower infant mortality will also lead to lower maternal mortality and that failing to control for this may obscure the response to infant mortality.

Presented by:

Atheendar Venkataramani (Massachusetts General Hospital, Center for Global Health)

Date & time:

2 Dec 2013 16:00 pm - 2 Dec 2013 17:30 pm

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