Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition

Alan Fernihough*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)
564 Downloads (Pure)


This paper provides an empirical test of the child quantity–quality (QQ) trade-off predicted by unified growth theory. Using individual census returns from the 1911 Irish census, we examine whether children who attended school were from smaller families—as predicted by a standard QQ model. To measure causal effects, we use a selection of models robust to endogeneity concerns which we validate for this application using an Empirical Monte Carlo analysis. Our results show that a child remaining in school between the ages of 14 and 16 caused up to a 27 % reduction in fertility. Our results are robust to alternative estimation techniques with different modeling assumptions, sample selection, and alternative definitions of fertility. These findings highlight the importance of the demographic transition as a mechanism which underpinned the expansion in human capital witnessed in Western economies during the twentieth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Economic Growth
Issue number1
Early online date22 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Demographic transition
  • Human capital
  • Quantity–quality
  • Unified growth theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


Dive into the research topics of 'Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this