Is the onset of fertility decline caused by structural socioeconomic changes or by the transmission of new ideas? The decline of marital fertility in Iran provides a quasi-experimental setting for addressing this question. Massive economic growth started in 1955; measurable ideational changes took place in 1967. We argue that the decline is described more precisely by demand theory than by ideation theory. It began around 1959, just after the onset of massive economic growth but well before the ideational changes. It paralleled the rapid growth of participation in primary education, and we found no evidence that the 1967 events had any effect on the decline. More than one-quarter of the decline can be attributed to the reduction in child mortality, a key mechanism of demand theory. Several other findings support this main conclusion.

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