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Children Versus Ideas: an “Influential” Theory of Demographic Transition

Zakharenko, Roman (2010): Children Versus Ideas: an “Influential” Theory of Demographic Transition.

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In this paper, I propose a theory of demographic transition and associated growth of the stock of knowledge that posits social influence as a key determinant of these phenomena. Individuals are influenced by ideas developed in the previous generation; their goal is to maximize their own social influence, that is, the extent to which their ideas have been used by the next generation. With high communication costs, one's ideas are utilized mainly by his/her children, which creates an incentive to have as many children as possible. With modern communication technologies, one's ideas can be used by millions, which makes people invest time into improvement of own ideas rather than production of children. Even those who can influence only their own children are induced to have smaller families and improve own ideas, because their children now have access not only to ideas of parents but also to ideas from the outside world.

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