Document Type

Working Paper

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Five categories of possible government influence on a nation’s fertility are explored: (1) through publicly funded programs that explicitly seek to affect family-size outcomes (2) through the legal order and system of public administration (3) through measures that affect economic opportunity, social mobility, and gender relations; (4) through public-sector expenditures and transfer payments keyed to age or family status; and (5) through the state’s supplanting of local beliefs and traditions with the symbols of national identity and through the parallel expansion of cultural frames of reference. Aside from the first of these, intentions to influence fertility are either incidental or wholly lacking, although the relationships were plausibly implicated in both the historical and contemporary fertility transitions. Delineating the actual nature and range of government influence can be a source of new insights into how to bring about a socially desired path of fertility in the future, both where present fertility is deemed too high and where it may be too low.