May 1, 2015
Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, and Lawrence Katz, Harvard University and NBER
Randall Akee, University of California, Los Angeles, and Emilia Simeonova, Johns Hopkins University and NBER
Seema Jayachandran, Northwestern University and NBER, and Rohini Pande, Harvard University and NBER
India's child stunting rate is among the highest in the world, exceeding that of many poorer African countries. In this paper, Jayachandran and Pande analyze data for over 174,000 Indian and Sub-Saharan African children to show that Indian firstborns are taller than African firstborns; the Indian height disadvantage emerges with the second child and then increases with birth order. This pattern persists when the researchers compare height between siblings, and also holds for health inputs such as vaccinations. Three patterns in the data indicate that India's culture of eldest son preference plays a key role in explaining the steeper birth order gradient among Indian children and, consequently, the overall height deficit. First, the Indian firstborn height advantage only exists for sons. Second, an Indian son with an older sibling is taller than his African counterpart if and only if he is the eldest son. Third, the India-Africa height deficit is largest for daughters with no older brothers, which reflects that fact that their families are those most likely to exceed their desired fertility in order to have a son.
Tom Vogl, Princeton University and NBER
Fertility change is distinct from other forms of social and economic change because it directly alters the size and composition of the next generation. In this paper, Vogl studies how the intergenerational transmission of fertility the association of a mother's fertility with her daughter's fertility evolves over the fertility transition, as well as how it feeds back into the time series of aggregate fertility rates. Microdata from 40 developing countries over the second half of the 20th century show that intergenerational transmission strengthens during fertility decline, in large part because socioeconomic differentials in fertility flip during the transition from Malthusian to modern fertility regimes. As a result, intergenerational transmission raises aggregate fertility rates as populations approach low fertility, pushing back against aggregate fertility decline.
Krzysztof Karbownik and Anthony Wray, Northwestern University
Karbownik and Wray show that poor health during childhood has long-run scarring effects on occupational outcomes for males and marriage market outcomes for females. The researchers have collected data on the causes of admission to two hospitals from late-19th century London, England to assess childhood health in an environment characterized by high rates of infectious disease. They link the hospital registers to census records to obtain adult outcomes. The authors use a sibling fixed effects identification strategy, which compares hospital patients to same-gender siblings, and thus controls for environmental factors common to the childhood household, as well as partially for unobserved genetic and health traits. Male patients admitted with acute conditions were 9.4 percentage points (20 percent) more likely than their brothers to work in unskilled or low-skilled occupations, and 7.4 percentage points (27 percent) less likely to work in white collar occupations as adults. The researchers also examine effects on inter-generational mobility and find a 3.8 percentage point (14 percent) increase in the probability of working in a lower occupational class than one's father. These results are robust to different definitions of severity and to different sample restrictions. A unique contribution of this paper is the creation of a longitudinal data set of female patients and their sisters, which relies on marriage certificates to identify surname changes. Female patients were 10.7 percentage points (32 percent) less likely to be married as adults relative to their sisters. These results suggest that the consequences of poor health in a pre-modern disease environment encompass not only high rates of infant mortality, but also significant and economically meaningful effects on the long-run socioeconomic opportunity of survivors.
Kasey Buckles and Daniel M. Hungerman, University of Notre Dame and NBER
While the fertility effects of improving teenagers' access to contraception are theoretically ambiguous, most empirical work has shown that access decreases teen fertility. In this paper, Buckles and Hungerman consider the fertility effects of access to condoms - a method of contraception not considered in prior work. The researchers exploit variation across counties and across time in teenagers' exposure to condom distribution programs in schools. These programs began in the early 1990s as hundreds of schools across the United States made condoms available on-site to students in an effort to prevent HIV transmission. The authors find that access to condoms in schools leads to an increase in teen fertility of about 10 percent, or about 4 extra births per 1,000 teen-age women. These effects are driven by communities where condoms are provided without mandated counseling on their use.