Female Education, Low Fertility, and Economic Development

Palloni, Alberto, Beatriz Novak, and Laeticia Rodrigues de Souza
Working paper no. 2012-03


We know surprisingly little about the long reach of changes in education and fertility, their intergenerational implications and the long term impact on human capital formation and aggregate economic growth. The purpose of this paper is to propose a simple framework to understand how changes in education levels in one generation could promote lower fertility levels in current and in subsequent cohorts of females, increase the average health status of children, and promote increased educational attainment and higher levels of human capital. We formulate a dynamic model with feedbacks to represent the relations that link the fate of one generation to that of the next one. Our results, obtained using data drawn from the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey, show important feedback effects and that any intervention that exogenously alters the birth interval distribution will have important payoffs in terms of educational attainment and that the payoffs will be spread over several generations.