The Economic Approach to Fertility: A Causal Mediation Analysis

Working paper 442
Gauthier T. Kashalala and Steven F. Koch
Publication date: 
July, 2014

This study develops an economic fertility model which explicitly incorporates both the costs of childrearing and contraception behaviour. In this setting, a couple capacity to procreate depends on their fecundity, as well as their contraception and sexual behaviours; and the ideal number of children is chosen by maximizing the utility of children, subject to a budget constraint reflecting the couple's income, and their specific explicit and implicit costs of rearing children. Using a non-parametric causal mediation framework (Pearl, 2009; Heckman and Pinto, 2013), our analysis explicitly explores the role of family planning services and the cost of children in mediating the causal effect of income on fertility, subject to unmeasurable fecundity and unobserved sexual risk taking behaviour. In particular, we discuss the definition, identification and estimation of a variety of causal effects, namely, the direct income effect, the contraception effect, and price effect.

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