Real options and demographic decisions: empirical evidence from East and West Germany

Sumon Bhaumik, Jeffrey B. Nugent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Iyer and Velu (2006) have convincingly argued that contemporary analyses of fertility behaviour fail to explain why a woman (or a couple) will choose to postpone childbirth, and in particular to consider the role of uncertainty in this regard. They have addressed this lacuna in the literature by using a real options approach to model fertility decisions by relating uncertainty experienced by individuals to the likelihood of childbirth. However, they did not present empirical evidence. Since the theory implies the existence of two offsetting effects of uncertainty on fertility decisions, a positive insurance effect and a negative option value effect, it is not easy to reject the theory on the basis of empirical analysis, when one of these effects offsets the other. We construct such a test for East (and also West) Germany during that country's reunification, which takes advantage of the fact that because of the country's strong welfare system, the insurance effect should be dominated by the option value effect, thereby suggesting that the net relationship should be negative. The results provide rather strong support for the real options link, especially for Eastern Germany.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2739-2949
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Economics
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


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