The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • John L. Newman
Reference work entry


Fecundity is defined as the ability to reproduce, whereas fertility is actual reproduction. Because differences in both unobserved fecundity and contraceptive behaviour can cause observed variation in fertility, it can be difficult to separate biological from behavioural influences on fertility. This identification problem is more troublesome in studies of individual than in aggregate fertility behaviour. Fertility trends and differentials at the aggregate level must be due primarily to socioeconomic factors since even wide variations in levels of health and nutrition have little effect on fecundity. Only in populations experiencing widespread malnutrition or a high prevalence of diseases leading to sterility (as has occurred in parts of Africa) does fecundity appear to be significantly impaired.

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John L. Newman
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