Stefania Albanesi

This paper examines the impact of the decline in maternal mortality on fertility and women's human capital. Fertility theory suggests that a permanent decline in maternal mortality initially increases fertility and generates a permanent rise in women's human capital, relative to men. The resulting rise in the opportunity cost of children leads to a subsequent decline in desired fertility, generating a boom-bust response. We assess these predictions using newly digitized data on maternal mortality for 25 advanced and emerging economies for the time period 1900-2000. The empirical estimates suggest that the decline in maternal mortality contributed significantly to the baby booms and subsequent baby busts experienced by these economies in the twentieth century, and that the female-male differential in education attainment grew more in those countries that experience a sizable maternal mortality decline.

JEL Codes
J11: Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
J13: Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
J16: Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
N30: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: General, International, or Comparative
Maternal mortality decline
fertility choice
baby boom
women's human capital