SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

This retrospective reviews the policies that affect the fertility of American women, both policies designed to alter fertility intentionally as well as those that change childbearing unintentionally. Becker's seminal work on the economics of fertility serves as the theoretical foundation for this literature. After describing Becker's economic model, we review the empirical literature on fertility responses to social welfare policies, tax policies, the mandated health care coverage of infertility treatments, abortion policies, and government-sponsored family planning services. We also address several Supreme Court cases that have played an important role in the interpretation of these policies. Where relevant, this retrospective describes the distributional effects of these natalist policies. We also discuss the limitations of this literature and identify important gaps. Unlike most developed countries that have created strategies to increase fertility to support their ageing population, the United States spends considerably less time and thought on this issue. Our reading of the literature suggests that we have many public policies that have affected and continue to influence the fertility choices made by families in the United States and that this is a topical area that deserves more attention in policy debates.