Protectionism and the Education-Fertility Tradeoff in Late 19th century France

Cecilia Garcia-Peñalosa, Aix-Marseille University and CESifo

The assumption that education and fertility are endogenous decisions that react to economic circumstances is a cornerstone of the unified growth theory that explains the transition to modern economic growth, yet evidence that such a mechanism was in operation before the 20th century is limited. This paper provides evidence of how protectionism reversed the education and fertility trends that were well under way in late 19th-century France. The Méline tariff , a tariff on cereals introduced in 1892, led to a substantial increase in agricultural wages, thus reducing the relative return to education. Since the importance of cereal production varied across regions, we use these differences to estimate the impact of the tariff. Our findings indicate that the tariff reduced education and increased fertility. The magnitude of these e ects was substantial, and in regions with large shares of employment in cereal production the tariff offset the time trend in education for up to 15 years. Our results thus indicate that even in the 19th century, policies that changed the economic prospects of their offspring affected parents' decisions about the quantity and quality of children.

About the speaker
Cecilia García-Peñalosa is research professor at the Aix-Marseille School of Economics. Professor García-Peñalosa is Spanish and studied in the UK, where she obtained a PhD in Economics from the University of Oxford. She has taught at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and was Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College (Oxford) before joining moving to Aix-Marseille. She is a fellow of CESifo (Munich), founding member of the Society for the Study of Economic Inequality (ECINEQ), council member of ECINEQ (2005-2012), and associate editor of the European Economic Review and the Journal of Economic Inequality. Her research focuses mainly on long-term growth and on the relationship between income inequality and growth. Recent work has focused on the role played by institutions in the growth process, the importance of the ‘quantity-quality tradeoff’ for long-run growth, as well as on how labour supply choices affect the distribution of earnings in different ountries.

Venue: Conference room

Date: 15 September 2016

Time: 12:00 - 13:00