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Education, autonomy to prefer and the dynamics of family decisions

By Rebeca A. Echávarri


A growing body of empirical literature shows that there is a negative relationship between a person’s educational achievements and her fertility decisions. Caution should be exercised before assuming that these results are due to the negative impact of education on the preference for child quantity. The relationship is much less straightforward. Becker[5], [6] and Becker and Lewis[7] convincingly argue against studying fertility decisions independently of the decision regarding the parents ’ desired bequest for each offspring (also known as child quality). This paper provides powerful arguments for accepting that the negative relationship between fertility and education is caused by the trade-off between child quantity and quality. Moreover, by modelling education as an instrument that increases the autonomy (to prefer), and autonomy as an instrument of preference-change, the empirical findings imply the following. Preference for quantity and preference for quality both increase with education, while preference for current consumption decreases. The decrease in fertility decisions is due to the impact of preference change related to child quality having a stronger impact than preference change related to child quantity

Topics: Endogenous Preferences, Autonomy, Fertility. Universidad Pública de Navarra (Department of Economics, Campus de Arrosadia
Year: 2013
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