Do Children Affect Life Expectancy? A Joint Study of Early Life Conditions, Fertility and Mortality

Sumedha Gupta, Northwestern University
Gerard G.J. van den Berg, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Tinbergen Institute
France Portrait, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Early life conditions are by now established determinants of adult mortality. Recent studies also find a strong statistical association between female fertility and mortality. This paper analyzes the relationship between these two determinants of adult mortality. To do so we first study the impact of economic conditions at different stages of childhood on individual fertility rates. Then we examine the effect of fertility on mortality. Given the potential endogeneity of fertility, female fertility and mortality is simultaneously studied using business-cycle conditions during childhood as exogenous determinants of both these events. Results indicate that favorable economic conditions in the years closer to puberty lower average fertility rates. Furthermore while women's health suffers during the reproductive period, fertility has a large, protective causal effect on female mortality thereafter. This effect is sensitive to the definition of fertility used and varies by age and parity of the woman.

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Presented in Session 117: Timing of Childbearing and Fertility Transitions: Establishing Cause and Effect