Policies to reduce fertility in developing
countries generally boost education levels, but only slightly
At the national level, it has long been observed
that a country's average education level is negatively associated with its
total fertility rate. At the household level, it has also been well
documented that children's education is negatively associated with the
number of children in the family. Do these observations imply a causal
relationship between the number of children and the average education level
(the quantity–quality trade-off)? A clear answer to this question will help
both policymakers and researchers evaluate the total benefit of family
planning policies, both policies to lower fertility and policies to boost
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.
Gender inequalities in daily time allocation may
have detrimental effects on earnings and well-being
Many countries experience gender differences, of
various magnitudes, in the time devoted to paid work (e.g. market work time)
and unpaid work (e.g. housework and childcare). Since household
responsibilities influence the participation of women, especially mothers,
in the labor market, the unequal sharing of unpaid work, with women bearing
the brunt of housework and childcare, is one of the main drivers of gender
inequality in the labor market. Understanding the factors behind these
gender inequalities is crucial for constructing policies aimed at promoting
gender equality and combating gender-based discrimination.
Fertility and marriage rates are pro-cyclical in
many countries, but the longer-term consequences are inconclusive
Low fertility rates are a cause of social
concern in many developed countries, with growing youth unemployment often
being considered a primary cause. However, economic theory is not conclusive
about whether deterioration in youth employment prospects actually
discourages family formation or for how long the effect might persist. In
addition, recessions can affect the divorce rate. Therefore, understanding
the relationship between labor market conditions and family formation can
provide important insights into the type of policies that would be most
effective in promoting fertility.
Boosting the efficiency of household production
could have large economic effects
The time household members in industrialized
countries spend on housework and shopping is substantial, amounting to about
half as much as is spent on paid employment. Women bear the brunt of this
burden, driven in part by the gender wage differential. Efforts to reduce
the gender wage gap and alter gendered norms of behavior should reduce the
gender bias in household production time and reduce inefficiency in home
production. Policymakers should also note the impact of tax policy on
housework time and its market substitutes, and consider ways to reduce the
distortions caused by sales and income taxes.
The earned income tax credit boosts income and work effort among low-income parents, especially single mothers, and has contributed to the steep rise in employment among single mothers in the 1990s.
The earned income tax credit provides important benefits to low-income families with children. At substantial costs (over $70 billion to the US federal government), it increases the incomes of such families while encouraging parents to work more by subsidizing their incomes. But low-income adults without children and non-custodial parents receive very low payments under the program in most years. Many of these adults are less-educated men, whose labor force participation rates and relative wages have been declining for years. They might benefit significantly from a more generous earned income tax credit for childless adults.