Timothy Guinnane

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Nicolas Hérault


Title: Nuptiality, Marital Fertility, and Social Insurance: Bismarck’s program in Prussia, 1880-1895

Abstract: Economists have long argued that introducing social insurance will reduce fertility. The hypothesis relies on standard economic models of fertility: if children are desirable in part because they provide security in case of disability or old age, then state programs that provide insurance against these events should induce couples to substitute away from children in the allocation of wealth. We test this claim using the introduction of social insurance in Germany in the 1880s and 1890s. Bismarck’s social-insurance system provided health insurance, workplace-accident insurance, and old-age pensions to a large majority of the working population. The German case appeals because the social-insurance program started on a large scale and was compulsory for covered classes of workers, and because fertility in Germany in this period was still relatively high. Our differences-in-differences approach asks whether marriage and marital fertility reacted to the introduction or extension of the main social-insurance programs.  We find that some parts of the system indirectly promoted fertility by promoting marriage. Social insurance did reduce fertility directly, although the effects are small.

Presenter: Timothy Guinnane, Yale University

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