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Cultural and Economic Approaches to Fertility: Proper Marriage or Mesalliance?

Robert A. Pollak and Susan Cotts Watkins
Population and Development Review
Vol. 19, No. 3 (Sep., 1993), pp. 467-496
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/2938463
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2938463
Page Count: 30
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Cultural and Economic Approaches to Fertility: Proper Marriage or Mesalliance?
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Abstract

Economic models have organized much fertility research, particularly over the last two decades. As usually formulated, these models assume that preferences are fixed and thus "explain" fertility differences by differences in opportunities (constraints). Yet some interpretations of the evidence on fertility transition appear inconsistent with explanations based solely on differences in opportunities and have led to explicit challenges to them. Challenges to fixed-preference explanations take three forms: explanations that allow variable preferences, explanations that emphasize diffusion, and explanations that emphasize "culture." The article first addresses the consistency of the empirical findings and the interpretations drawn from them with various fixed-preference economic models. It then discusses variable-preference economic models, the roles that diffusion may play in these models, and the relationship between cultural and economic explanations of fertility.

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