Homes and Husbands for All: Marriage, Housing and the Baby Boom

Matthew Hill, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and RAND Corporation

The U.S. experienced an unprecedented increase in fertility during the baby boom. The elevated birth rates from 1946 to 1964 were driven in part by a shift toward more universal marriage. This paper argues that growth in the supply of housing after World War II contributed to this expansion of marriage. Specifically, the paper estimates the effect of additional building permits (a proxy for housing supply) at the city level on individual marriage outcomes. An instrumental variable approach is used to address endogenous permit location. I construct an annual level instrument using the national permit series in conjunction with a city’s geographical constraints, region and temperature. My estimates suggest that the growth in housing supply in the late 1940s can explain about 33 percent of the difference in marriage rates between 1930 and 1950. Overall, the increase in housing supply can account for nearly ten percent of the baby boom.

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Presented in Session 178: Demography of Housing