Sonia Bhalotra, University of Essex – University of Copenhagen

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Sonia Bhalotra, University of Essex

"Fertility Responses to Reductions in Infant Mortality: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from 20th Century America"


The introduction of the first antibiotics (sulfonamide drugs) in the United States in the late 1930s led to a sharp fall in infant mortality. We use this plausibly exogenous medical innovation to study the fertility response to changes in infant mortality. We find that the decline in infant mortality led women to delay childbearing and to have fewer children overall. Surprisingly, we also find that more women remained childless. We explain this result by showing that reductions in infant mortality increased the probability of labor force participation, resulted in higher occupational status and reduced the probability of women ever having married. Reductions in infant mortality decreased the amount of time women needed to spend childbearing. This prompted fertility delay and entry to the labor market, which coupled with wage or fecundity shocks can explain the increase in childlessness

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Contact person: Casper Worm