Inducing fertility change - A game-theoretic approach

Oded Stark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the inducement of fertility change in situations where actual fertility levels do not coincide with socially optimal fertility levels. The motivating example is that of higher than socially optimal levels of fertility in LDCs, but the approach is equally applicable to contexts of lower than socially optimal levels of fertility in DCs. The paper proposes a prisoner's dilemma characterization of higher than socially optimal levels of fertility in LDCs and offers a resolution of the dilemma, and hence a possible route to fertility-reduction policies, through the generation of mutual altruism. The prisoner's dilemma characterization hinges on the assumption that there is some social sharing of the costs associated with a given level of fertility but less or none with respect to the benefits. The mutual altruism solution depends on representing an agent's preferences as a specific convex combination of his/her and the other agent's original utilities. The unique critical level of such altruism is identified and hence a stopping rule is provided. Several examples from the array of extensions and possible implications of this approach are discussed briefly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-42
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Population
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1986
Externally publishedYes


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