Fertility and Labor Market Responses to Reductions in Mortality: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from 20th Century America

Speaker: Sonia Bhalotra

University of Essex

This event is part of the Sociology Seminar Series.

We investigate women's fertility and labor force participation responses to the large declines in both child and maternal mortality that occurred following a plausibly exogenous medical innovation. The decline in child mortality led women to delay childbearing and have fewer children overall. Fewer women had three or more children, and a larger share remained childless. We present a new theory of the extensive margin response, premised upon reductions in child mortality reducing the time women need to achieve their target number of children. This prompts fertility delay and labor market entry which, coupled with wage or fecundity shocks, can result in childlessness. Consistent with these predictions, we find that reductions in child mortality increased women's labor force participation, improved their occupational status and reduced their chances of ever having married. Maternal mortality decline had opposing effects on all of these outcomes.

The Sociology Seminar Series is convened by Lucie Kalousova, Per Engzell and Julia BenrmanFor more information about this or any of the seminars in the series, please contact