Fertility and women’s labor force participation in developing countries

Maria Porter, University of Oxford
Elizabeth M. King, World Bank Group

To estimate the causal impact of fertility on women’s labor force participation, we use the occurrence of twins and the sex in first births as measures of exogenous shocks to fertility. Since twins at first birth occur relatively rarely, we use all available Demographic and Health Surveys. We find that preference for children of multiple sexes and sons are predominant factors in determining how women adjust their fertility decisions to the outcome of their first two births. Decisions regarding fertility and labor vary considerably depending on a woman’s age and geographic location. Variation in infant mortality plays a role, as effects are quite different on total fertility from the effects on the number of surviving children. Women have more children if they had twins in the first birth, if the first two were the same sex, or if the first two were girls. Effects on labor force participation vary considerably.

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Presented in Session 103: Economic impact of reproductive health