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Brazil: Trade Liberalization & Fertility Rates

Study: The Effects of Trade Exposure on Marriage and Fertility Choices: Evidence from Brazil

  • Objective: This study delves into how the 1990s trade liberalization in Brazil, an economic shock, influenced marriage and fertility choices.
  • Context: The policy shift led to a negative labor market impact, especially in regions facing intense foreign competition.


  • Brazil’s Economy in the 1990s: Faced a significant transition due to trade liberalization.
  • Impact: While reducing consumer goods prices, it adversely affected employment in protected industries, disproportionately impacting men.


  1. Decreased Likelihood of Childbearing:
    • Women in areas with high exposure to international competition showed reduced fertility.
    • This effect continued for two decades post-liberalization.
    • Predominantly driven by a decline in young men’s employment rate.
  2. Lack of Impact from Women’s Employment:
    • Changes in women’s job opportunities did not significantly influence fertility decisions.
    • Indicates a complex interplay between economic factors and reproductive choices.
  3. Longevity of Effects:
    • The study underscores the enduring nature of such economic changes on social choices.

Marriage Findings

  1. Stability in Marriage Rates:
    • Contrary to expectations, trade liberalization didn’t significantly alter marriage rates.
    • This finding challenges traditional economic theories linking male employment to marriage propensity.
  2. Societal Implications:
    • Suggests a shift in societal norms or attitudes towards marriage, independent of economic conditions.

Methodological Approach

  • Causal Mediation Analysis: Utilized to dissect the relationship between employment shifts and social decisions.
  • Regional Comparative Study: Examined varying impacts across different Brazilian regions, pre- and post-trade policy change.

Broader Implications

  1. Economic Policy and Social Dynamics:
    • Illustrates how macroeconomic policies can have deep-rooted effects on societal structures and personal choices.
    • Emphasizes the need for a holistic view when implementing significant economic reforms.
  2. Gender-Specific Impacts:
    • Highlights how economic shifts can differentially affect men and women, leading to varied social outcomes.
  3. Policy Insights:
    • Offers crucial insights for policymakers about the unintended social consequences of economic decisions.


  • Summary: The research provides a nuanced understanding of how economic policies like trade liberalization can have far-reaching and lasting effects on social structures, particularly in terms of fertility and marriage.
  • Significance: It underscores the importance of considering these broader impacts when crafting economic policies, highlighting the intricate connection between economics and societal norms.