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Seminar – Us and them? Evidence of cultural distinction through fertility choices in the Netherlands

Tinbergen Institute

We study the horizontal transmission of fertility choices between cultural groups in the Netherlands. We exploit the inflow of Syrian asylum-seekers between 2014 and 2017 and the variation across Syrian families in terms of number of children as a natural experiment. Using registry data, we show that the type of Syrian family moving to a given street is a good-as-random once we control for neighborhood fixed effects. We find negative spillovers on the rest of the street: being exposed to larger Syrian families reduces birth rates in 2018-2020. The effect is driven by couples who already have children and is stronger for couples originating from a Muslim country. We find opposite results if we look at responses to families coming from Europe and the US: Dutch natives increase their birth rates when the newcomer family is larger. These empirical patterns are consistent with a model of cultural distinction, in which couples use fertility choices to signal their social status. Joint work with Pascal Achard (CREST).

Room 1.01


  • Pauline Rossi (École Polytechnique-CREST)


Gustav Mahlerplein 117,
1082 MS Amsterdam