The Causal Impact of College Expansion on Marriage and Fertility: A Quasi-Experimental Analysis of the South Korean Experience

Seongsoo Choi, Yale University

I examine how educational expansion affects fertility, using data from South Korea, where the college system expanded dramatically and the fertility rate dropped rapidly during 1990s and 2000s. I utilize the college expansion policy as a quasi-experiment in the difference-in-difference model to estimate the changes in fertility for groups defined by their responsiveness to the policy based on propensities for college: those who were drawn into higher education through the expansion (compliers) and those whose college-going decisions are not affected by the expansion because, in any case, they either attend (always-takers) or do not (never-takers). The results show that the effect of college expansion among compliers was modest and mostly due to their delay of leaving education. The declines in marriage and childbirth are most striking among always-takers. The main driving force is fertility-related value changes among traditionally college-educated women. Their decoupling between marriage and fertility is also a contributor.

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Presented in Session 47: Low Fertility