Gene‐Environment Effects on Female Fertility

Fertility has a strong biological component generally ignored by economists. Using the UK Biobank, we analyze the extent to which genes, proxied by polygenic scores, and the environment, proxied by early exposure to the contraceptive pill diffusion, affect age at first sexual intercourse, age at first birth, completed family size, and childlessness. Both genes and environment exert substantial influences on all outcomes. The anticipation of sexual debut and the postponement of motherhood led by the diffusion of the pill are magnified by gene‐environment interactions, while the decline in family size and the rise in childlessness associated with female emancipation are attenuated by gene‐environment  effects.  The  nature‐nurture  interplay  becomes  stronger  in  more  egalitarian  environments  that  empower  women,  allowing  genes  to  express  themselves  more  fully.  These conclusions  are  confirmed  by  heterogeneous  effects  across  the  distributions  of  genetic  susceptibilities and exposure to environmental risks, sister fixed effects models, mother‐daughter comparisons, and counterfactual simulations.

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