Investing in female human capital can reduce
brideprice and dowry practices and increase welfare
Payments at the time of marriage, which are
ubiquitous in developing countries, can be substantial enough to impoverish
parents. Brideprice and dowry have both been linked to domestic violence
against women, and inflation in these payments has prompted legislation
against them in several jurisdictions. Marriage payments are often a
substitute for investment in female human capital, so from a welfare and
policy perspective, they should be prohibited. This highlights the
importance of promoting direct economic returns over legal and customary
Hot weather can worsen reproductive health and decrease later
Research finds that hot weather causes a fall in birth rates
nine months later. Evidence suggests that this decline in births is due to hot weather harming
reproductive health around the time of conception. Birth rates only partially rebound after
the initial decline. Moreover, the rebound shifts births toward summer months, harming infant
health by increasing third trimester exposure to hot weather. Worse infant health raises
health care costs in the short term as well as reducing labor productivity in the longer term,
possibly due to lasting physiological harm from the early life injury.
Migrants encounter different fertility norms
while abroad, which they can bring back upon returning home
Demographic factors in migrant-sending countries
can influence international migration flows. But when migrants move across
borders, they can also influence the pace of demographic transition in their
countries of origin. This is because migrants, who predominantly move on a
temporary basis, encounter new fertility norms in their host countries and
then bring them back home. These new fertility norms can be higher or lower
than those in their country of origin. So the new fertility norms that
result from migration flows can either accelerate or slow down a demographic
transition in migrant-sending countries.
Measures of intergenerational persistence can be
indicative of equality of opportunity, but the relationship is not
A strong association between incomes across
generations—with children from poor families likely to be poor as adults—is
frequently considered an indicator of insufficient equality of opportunity.
Studies of such “intergenerational persistence,” or lack of
intergenerational mobility, measure the strength of the relationship between
parents’ socio-economic status and that of their children as adults.
However, the association between equality of opportunity and common measures
of intergenerational persistence is not as clear-cut as is often assumed. To
aid interpretation researchers often compare measures across time and space
but must recognize that reliable measurement requires overcoming important
data and methodological difficulties.
Government policies can have a modest effect on
raising fertility—but broader social changes lowering fertility are
Since 1989 fertility and family formation have
declined sharply in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Fertility rates are converging on—and sometimes falling below—rates in
Western Europe, most of which are below replacement levels. Concerned about
a shrinking and aging population and strains on pension systems, governments
are using incentives to encourage people to have more children. These
policies seem only modestly effective in countering the impacts of
widespread social changes, including new work opportunities for women and
stronger incentives to invest in education.
Postponed childbearing increases women’s labor
market attachment but may reduce overall fertility
The rise in the average age of women bearing
their first child is a well-established demographic trend in recent decades.
Postponed childbearing can have important consequences for the mother and,
at a macro level, for the country as a whole. Research has focused on the
effect postponing fertility has on the labor market outcomes for mothers and
on the total number of children a woman has in her lifetime. Most research
finds that postponing the first birth raises a mother’s labor force
participation and wages but may have negative effects on overall fertility,
especially in the absence of supportive family-friendly policies.
Universal early education can be beneficial, and
more so for the poor, but quality matters
There is widespread interest in universal early
education, both to promote child development and to support maternal
employment. Positive long-term findings from small-scale early education
interventions for low-income children in the US have greatly influenced the
public discussion. However, such findings may be of limited value for
policymakers considering larger-scale, more widely accessible programs.
Instead, the best insight into the potential impacts of universal early
education comes from analysis of these programs themselves, operating at
scale. This growing research base suggests that universal early education
can benefit both children and families, but quality matters.
The success of universal preschool education depends crucially
on the policy parameters and specific country context
Since the 1970s, many countries have established free or highly
subsidized education for all preschool children in the hope of improving children’s learning
and socio-economic life chances and encouraging mothers to join the labor force. Evaluations
reveal that these policies can increase maternal employment in the short term and may continue
to do so even after the child is no longer in preschool by enabling mothers to gain more job
skills and increase their attachment to the labor force. However, their effectiveness depends
on the policy design, the country context, and the characteristics of mothers of
Inheritance-related work disincentives can be
strong, but labor supply could increase if bequests facilitate
Inheriting money can be a problem since the new
wealth might sap the beneficiaries’ incentive to work. Or it could do the
opposite, by facilitating entrepreneurship among those whose ambition to
start a business had been stymied by a lack of cash. Recent evidence
suggests inheritance-related work disincentives can be strong—unexpected
inheritances can matter a lot for early retirement, for example. But where
inheritances facilitate self-employment, as some evidence suggests, the
labor supply might increase.