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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title Essays on the Economics of Fertility.
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/133269/norling_1.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
In several countries, girls are more likely than boys to be aborted, to die in infancy, or to
have younger siblings, all of which signal that parents want sons. However, standard techniques
for measuring sex preferences fail to detect more subtle forms of sex preferences, especially
when preferences are heterogeneous within a population. The first chapter of this dissertation
introduces a new framework for estimating heterogeneity in sex preferences using birth history
records. The framework selects among many possible combinations of preferences over the sex
and number of children to best match observed childbearing. Empirical estimates indicate that
sex preferences are more widespread than previously reported and exhibit substantial
heterogeneity within regions. In Africa, this heterogeneity is associated with agricultural
traditions that favor men or women.
During the apartheid era, all South Africans were formally classified as white, African,
coloured, or Asian. Starting in 1970, the government directly provided free family planning
services to residents of townships and white-owned farms. The second chapter of this
dissertation demonstrates that, relative to African residents of other regions of the country, the
share of African women that gave birth in these townships and white-owned farms declined by
nearly one-third during the 1970s. Deferral of childbearing into the 1980s partially explains this
decline, but lifetime fertility fell by one child per woman.
The third chapter of this dissertation provides new evidence that family planning
programs are associated with a decrease in the share of children and adults living in poverty.
The chapter uses publicly-available census data to study the relationship between U.S. family
planning programs in the late 1960s and early 1970s and short and longer-term poverty rates.
Cohorts born after federal family planning programs began were less likely to live in poverty in
childhood and in adulthood.

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