DAVID NJENGA ORIGINAL WORK - The rational decision making...

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The rational decision making in relation to the economic theories of fertility. Population trends and their economic consequences have long been studied by economists like Adam Smith. However, attempts at systematically explaining these macro level trends through economic analyses – based, among other things, on a microeconomic theory of parental fertility choices – are a much more recent phenomenon What is currently considered to be “the” economic theory of fertility can largely be taken to be a strand of literature inaugurated through a seminal contribution by Becker (1960). Over time, the research programme covered in this literature has grown substantially, not only through a multitude of extensions and adaptations brought forth by Becker and his followers but also through the integration of alternative ideas developed by a number of independent researchers and critics it is important to note that the economic theory of fertility does not provide a particular explanation for why people may want to have children. Nor does it necessarily yield a consistent set of results when addressing important sub issues such as the desirable number, timing and spacing of births, that is, how many children parents may wish to have, at what stage of their life cycles, at which intervals, etc. Rather, economic theory provides a generic, but distinct approach to analyzing relevant motives and outcomes. It rests on a uniform paradigm with potentially differing specifications which can be brought to bearing on various dimensions and aspects of actual fertility behavior. The economists’ contribution to explaining fertility behavior At the core of contemporaneous, mainstream micro-economics is the idea that agents are constantly making “rational” choices in order to maximize their well-being as perceived by themselves, under the conditions of scarce resources, limited capacities, limited financial budgets, limited information and, ultimately, limited time to relax any of these restrictions. While prices, production technologies, and constraints may vary over time, economists are usually reluctant to assume that individual preferences change. The main reason is that preferences are not easily observable, so this assumption could be used for explaining anything that happens, however, methodological strictness is one thing, the realism of the assumption that relevant individual preferences are entirely stable is another, as has been acknowledged in a number of relevant contributions The economic theory of fertility basically fits in with this description, giving rise to the fundamental question of whether rational decision making is indeed a meaningful approach to dealing with this specific issue. Is there room for rational decision making?
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