Fertility Decline as a Coordination Problem

Hans‐Peter Kohler

in Fertility and Social Interaction

Published in print September 2001 | ISBN: 9780199244591
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596544 | DOI:
 Fertility Decline as a Coordination Problem

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This chapter is devoted to the role of social networks for the selection of equilibria in situations in which fertility decline constitutes a coordination problem. We show that the effect of networks depends on the particular interaction among individuals and on the prevailing socioeconomic conditions: `information networks’ can only speed up a fertility transition that would also take place in the absence of social interaction, while `coordination networks’ can facilitate demographic change in societies that would otherwise be caught in a Malthusian situation. Coordination networks, however, are limited by a temporal window of opportunities. During this period, social networks and collective action can initiate a fertility transition. Afterwards, population growth increases the stability of a traditional equilibrium and prevents endogenous demographic change. The media and its interaction with social networks emerges an alternative that can overcome the social coordination problem even in large populations when coordination networks fail.

Keywords: coordination problem; fertility decline; Malthus; multiple equilibria; population growth; social networks

Chapter.  13274 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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