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Did Improvements in Household Technology Cause the Baby Boom? Evidence from Electrification, Appliance Diffusion, and the Amish

Publication Abstract

Bailey, Martha J., and William Collins. 2009. "Did Improvements in Household Technology Cause the Baby Boom? Evidence from Electrification, Appliance Diffusion, and the Amish." NBER Working Paper 14641

We examine the hypothesis that advances in household technology caused the US baby boom, and we find no support for this claim. Advances in household technology occurred before the baby boom, while fertility declined. From 1940 to 1960, levels/changes in county-level appliance ownership and electrification negatively predict levels/changes in fertility rates. Exposure to electricity in early adulthood and children-ever-born are negatively correlated for the relevant cohorts. The Amish, who used modern technologies much less than other US households, experienced a coincident baby boom. This evidence can be reconciled with economic theory if other home-produced goods are substitutes with children.

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Country of focus: United States of America.

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