Sparking Fertility: The Rural Electrification Administration and Fertility in the United States 1930-1940

Carl Kitchens, University of Mississippi

In 1935, the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was created to bring electricity to the farm at a time when less than 10 percent of farms had electricity. We view REA electrification as a permanent shock to income and then examine the role of electrification on fertility. To identify the effect of REA electrification, we construct a panel of county level fertility rates and use variation in the cost of wholesale electric service to account for the selection of REA project areas. We find that the REA led to large increases in fertility during a period of secular decline in fertility and this is robust to a variety of other programs targeted at agriculture and electrification. We view this as evidence that children are a normal good.

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Presented in Session 185: Social Change and Fertility