The Effect of Fertility Decline on Children’s Education in Costa Rica

Jing Li, University of California, Berkeley
William H. Dow, University of California, Berkeley
Luis Rosero-Bixby, Universidad de Costa Rica

Costa Rica experienced a dramatic fertility decline in the 1960s and 1970s. In this paper we explore one dimension of the potential demographic dividend from this shift: the extent to which it was accompanied by quantity-quality tradeoffs leading to higher educational attainment. Specifically, we estimate the increase in secondary school attendance among children as the number of siblings decreases. We use Census data as well as survey data from the Costa Rican Longevity and Healthy Aging Study (CRELES). To address endogenous family size the analysis uses an instrumental variable strategy based on gender of the first two children, which we find significantly predicts total fertility in Costa Rican families. Results indicate that decreasing fertility strongly increases educational attainment, particularly among girls. Simulations suggest that declining fertility can statistically explain much of the rapid increase in Costa Rican secondary school attainment in the second half of the 20th century.

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Presented in Session 29: Reaping the Demographic Dividend in Developing Countries