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Did Rising Out-Migration Cause Fertility to Decline in Antebellum New England? A Life-Cycle Perspective on Old-Age Security Motives, Child Default, and Farm-Family Fertility

Ransom, Roger L. and Sutch, Richard (1986) Did Rising Out-Migration Cause Fertility to Decline in Antebellum New England? A Life-Cycle Perspective on Old-Age Security Motives, Child Default, and Farm-Family Fertility. Social Science Working Paper, 610. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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A model of fertility based on the life-cycle model of intertemporal optimization is presented in which fertility, children's schooling, saving, and bequest planning are simultaneously determined. The paper hypothesizes that sometime shortly after the beginning of the nineteenth century, Americans began to adopt this life-cycle strategy and abandon the older, traditional family-based system of providing for old age. As a consequence the overall fertility rate began to fall. The change in attitudes was, it is argued, triggered by the high incidence of 'child default' as young adults left the seaboard states for land in the west. The change to life-cycle strategies was gradual and proceeded at different rates in different parts of the country. This differential timing of the 'life-cycle transition' allows empirical tests to be based on cross-sections of state data drawn from the 1840 U.S. Census. The model is shown to predict well. An alternative hypothesis, Richard Easterlin's 'target-bequest model' is rejected by these tests.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Discussion Paper)
Additional Information:This working paper was inspired and influenced by two papers prepared for the University of California's Tenth Conference on Economic History, Laguna Beach, May 2-4, 1986. Jeffrey G. Williamson, “Did Rising Emigration Cause Fertility to Decline in 19th Century Rural England? Child Costs, Old-Age Pensions and Child Default,” Harvard Institute for Economic Research Discussion Paper Number 1172 [August 19851, discusses the link between rural out-migration and the fertility decline in England during the late nineteenth century. William A. Sundstrom and Paul A. David, “Old-Age Security Motives, Labor Markets, and Farm Family Fertility in Antebellum America,” Stanford Project on the History of Fertility Control Working Paper Number 17 [February 19861, discuss the impact of the expanding market for nonagricultural labor on American fertility in the early nineteenth century. Our title is an intentional pastiche designed to call attention to our intellectual debt. We would also like to acknowledge a helpful discussion with Susan Carter and the assistance of Thomas Weiss who made his unpublished estimates of the rural population of the United States, 1800-1840, available to us.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Subject Keywords:Fertility Changes, Historical Demography, Theoretical Models, Family Life Cycle, Old Age Security, Child Worth, Child, Geographic Factors, Education, Savings, Fertility, Intergenerational Transfers, Historical Review, Developed Countries, Population Dynamics, Demographic Factors, Population, Demography, Social Sciences, Science, Sociocultural Factors, Research Methodology, Family Research, Family and Household, Microeconomic Factors, Economic Factors, Youth, Age Factors, Population Characteristics, Macroeconomic Factors
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:610
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170913-134919588
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:81418
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:15 Sep 2017 18:19
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:42

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