Childlessness and Economic Development: A Survey

  • Thomas BaudinEmail author
  • David de la Croix
  • Paula E. Gobbi


This chapter shows why, beyond average fertility, childlessness matters in itself. Childlessness reacts to economic incentives in a peculiar way, which cannot be described by usual economic models of fertility. We make a distinction between childlessness due to poverty and childlessness due to economic opportunities. It allows to better understand the dynamics of childlessness along the history but also why the extensive margin of fertility (childlessness) does not adjust to economic shocks and development policies in the same way as the intensive margin (number of children of mothers). Introducing marriage into this framework provides new insights: higher educational homogamy per se decreases childlessness as it favors marriage. Nevertheless, because educational homogamy is most of the time accompanied by a rise in female education, it may also be associated with increases in childlessness in the data.


Childlessness Fertility Education Marriage Children Sterility Economic development Poverty-driven childlessness Opportunity-driven childlessness Female empowerment Childcare Malthusian economy Educational homogamy Reproductive health Demographic economics Developed countries Developing countries Historical childlessness Quantity and quality of children Inequality 

JEL Classification Numbers

J11; O11; O40 



Thomas Baudin acknowledges the financial support of the French National Research Agency through the project ANR-18-CE26-0002.

David de la Croix acknowledges the financial support of the project ARC 15/19-063 of the Belgian French-speaking Community.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Baudin
    • 1
    Email author
  • David de la Croix
    • 2
    • 3
  • Paula E. Gobbi
    • 4
    • 2
  1. 1.IÉSEG School of Management & LEM (UMR 9221)LilleFrance
  2. 2.CEPRLondonUK
  3. 3.IRES/LIDAM - Université catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  4. 4.Université Libre de Bruxelles (ECARES)BruxellesBelgium

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