Unbalanced sex ratios in Germany caused by World War II and their effect on fertility: A life cycle perspective

Iris Kesternich, Bettina Siflinger*, James P. Smith, Carina Steckenleiter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

This paper analyzes the effects of permanently unbalanced sex ratios in Germany caused by World War II on fertility outcomes over the life cycle. Using Census records linked with individual biography data, our analysis confirms the commonly found short-term pattern of decreased fertility rates due to a stark imbalance of the sex ratio. Yet, the long-term effects of such an imbalance crucially depend on when in the life cycle fertility is evaluated. We find that female cohorts with low sex ratios have fewer children at younger ages and a larger fraction remains childless. While childlessness remains higher throughout their life cycle, mothers from affected cohorts catch up and even overcompensate at later ages with respect to the number of children. Our preferred reading of this result is that with low sex ratios women select themselves into late motherhood according to their fertility preferences. This interpretation is consistent with the finding that women from affected cohorts expand their childbearing period and accept lower quality matches in the marriage market. Our findings have important implications for understanding the long-term consequences of large population shocks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103581
JournalEuropean Economic Review
Volume130
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Fertility
  • Life cycle
  • Marriage
  • Sex ratio
  • World War II

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