Unified Growth Theory suggests the demographic transition and the associated rise in human capital formation were critical forces in the transition from Malthusian stagnation to modern economic growth. This paper provides empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis based on the Korean industrialization in the late 20th century. Using a fixed effects model and a fixed effect two-stage least squares model, this study exploits variations in fertility and in human capital formation across regions in Korea over the period 1970 to 2010. This analysis finds a virtuous cycle, where technological progress increased the demand for human capital, leading to an increase in the level of education and, in turn, to a demographic transition. This establishes the existence of a quantity-quality tradeoff on the Korean development path.
Demographic transition Quantity-quality trade-off Malthusian stagnation Unified Growth Theory