This paper studies the political economy of fertility. I particularly ask whether fertility may be a strategic choice for ethnic groups engaged in redistributive conflict.1 There are at least two reasons why the answer could be affirmative. First, individuals in diverse societies tend to vote for co-ethnic political candidates, who then reward them with transfers, jobs, or local public goods (Young 1976, Bates 1981). Fertility should therefore increase an ethnic group’s voting power and gains from political office. Second, if ethnic groups allocate society’s resources via conflict or bargaining in the shadow of conflict (Horowitz 2000, Collier and Hoeffler 2004), then fertility might increase their combat strength.2 Importantly, however, these redistributive gains to fertility should mainly be present where weak institutions erode the security of property rights.
To further explore these issues, this paper presents a simple model of redistributive ethnic conflict with endogenous fertility. I then test the model in a cross-national dataset. Consistent with the theory, I find that economies with high ethnic diversity and/or weak institutions have higher fertility rates. I conclude that high fertility may have political roots.
"fertility may be a strategic choice for ethnic groups engaged in redistributive conflict"
The political economy of fertility (draft pdf):