Fertility responses to short-term economic stress: Exploring the effects of a wealth shock in a pre-transitional settler colony

Crawford School of Public Policy
Photo by South African Tourism on Flickr

Event details

ACDE Seminar

Date & time

Tuesday 06 September 2022


Weston Theatre and Zoom


Martine Mariotti, Australian National University

The pre-transitional South African settler context is ideal for an investigation of fertility-limiting behaviour in light of short-term economic stress, captured here by a large negative wealth shock. The 1834 emancipation of slaves represented a substantial loss of wealth to many Cape Colony slaveholders, with records showing that they received, on average, between 40 and 50 per cent of the market value of their slaves. From slaveholder compensation claim forms we derive the average shortfall per slave - the difference between the actual value of slaves at market prices and the amount received from the compensation scheme - for each slave-holder. To this, we link complete birth histories of settler women from the South African Families database. Using this combination of novel data sources and event history models that look simultaneously at stopping, spacing as well as postponement we investigate the effect of an unanticipated wealth shock on all dimensions of fertility limitation. Crucially, because the ultimate compensation received was, we argue, random, uncorrelated with wealth and unexpected, we can interpret the effects as causal.

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