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Children's Economic Roles

The social and economic structure may influence fertility by modifying the roles of children, especially their economic contribution to the family. The typical illustration of demographic transition theory describes how the shift from an agricultural economy to an urban-based one transforms children from economic assets to liabilities. From this hypothesis has come a considerable body of research that attempts to measure the actual and perceived value of children to the household economy (Mueller, 1976; Nag, White and Peet, 1978; Darroch, Meyer, and Singarimbun, 1981; Caldwell, 1983). The variables identified here are: (1) the labor force activity of children, aged 10-14, and (2) the degree of school enrollment of young children, aged 7-15. The level of school enrollment is an indicator of "mass schooling" which Caldwell (1980) identifies as a key macrolevel determinant of fertility. For the purposes of this project, we have reversed the direction of the coding of the variable representing the labor force activity of children in order to make the direction of the expected effects comparable to that of the other contextual variables (a higher level of non-participation in the labor force has an expected negative effect on fertility).