Women's Property Rights and Fertility: Evidence from the 19th and 20th Century United States

Cora Neumann, University of Warwick, Department of Economics

The relationship between female economic empowerment and fertility remains unclear in the literature. In this paper, I exploit the staggered introduction of property rights for married women in the 19th and early 20th century United States to study the effect of property rights on women's fertility. Using eight waves of US census data and two-way fixed effect models for birth state and year, I show that women who grew up in states that granted women property rights had lower fertility on both the extensive and intensive margin during adulthood. For each additional year a woman lived in a state with property rights during her childhood, she has .009 fewer children and is .2ppt less likely to be a mother at all. These results are robust to restrictions in the sample as well as different measurements of the treatment. Using data on labour force participation and income, I further show that this reduction in fertility was likely driven by the opportunity cost of having children. I will also be submitting this project to the History of the Family call for abstracts.

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 Presented in Session 86. Unveiling the Dynamics of Women's Lives: Property Rights, Education, and Work in the Transformation of Fertility Patterns