How the Mean Age at First Birth Affects Economic Growth

Gorm Grønborg-Forsingdal

Student thesis: Master thesis


Standards of living and economic growth vary greatly across countries. The objective of this thesis is to test whether or not the mean age for women giving birth to their first child affects economic growth. Existing literature has already found that variables such as human capital, initial wealth, health and fertility have significant effects on differences in GDP growth rates. This thesis elaborates on existing literature by testing a new potential explanatory growth variable. The research question of this thesis is: Does the mean age at first birth have an effect on growth in real GDP per capita? I included 100 countries in cross-sectional analyses, where I controlled for 11 explanatory growth variables. The analyses were based on time periods from 1970-2011, as well as smaller time periods from 1970-1995 and 1995-2011. Moreover, I also performed regressions on sub-segments of the dataset by only including the OECD countries in the analyses. The estimates of the coefficient for the mean age at first birth were significant for the time periods from 1970-2011 and from 1970-1995. The results for these time periods indicated that a one-year delay of motherhood have increased growth in real GDP per capita within the range of 0.14% to 0.39% per year. The results for the period from 1995-2011 did not yield statistically significance for the effect of the mean age at first birth on real economic growth. I conclude that the mean age at first birth did have an impact on real economic growth from 1970- 2011 and from 1970-1995. The conclusion has two important implications: 1. Policy makers in countries with relatively low mean ages at first birth should consider policies that delay motherhood. Such policies could be to improve education, health or the use of contraception. 2. Academics doing studies on economic growth, especially on the effect of fertility, should consider controlling for the mean age at first birth in their studies. It is possible that the positive relationship between the mean age at first birth and economic growth was due to direct effect such as the number of hours worked by women. Otherwise, it could be due to indirect effects on human capital, fertility, health or gender inequality.

EducationsMSc in Advanced Economics and Finance, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages84
SupervisorsBattista Severgnini