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Why did fertility decline?: an analysis of the individual level economics correlates of the nineteenth century fertility transition in England and France

Cummins, Neil (2009) Why did fertility decline?: an analysis of the individual level economics correlates of the nineteenth century fertility transition in England and France. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

The fertility transition in nineteenth century Europe is one of economic history’s greatest puzzles. There is no consensus in the literature on the causes of this ‘fertility revolution’. Following a critical review of the empirical and theoretical literature, this thesis re-examines the economic correlates of the fertility decline through the analysis of two new datasets from England and France. For the first time, the relationship between wealth and fertility can be studied over the period of the fertility transition. Clear patterns are discovered, namely a strong positive relationship pre-transition which switches to a strongly negative relationship during the onset of the transition. Family limitation is initiated by the richest segments of society. I then introduce a simple model which links fertility and social mobility to levels of economic inequality. I argue that parents are motivated by relative status concerns and the fertility transition is a response to changes in the environment for social mobility, where increased mobility becomes obtainable through fertility limitation. This hypothesis is tested with the new micro data in England and France. Fertility decline is strongly associated with decreased levels of inequality and increased levels of social mobility. The analysis finds strong support for the role of changes in inequality and the environment for social mobility as central factors in our understandings of Europe’s fertility transition.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2009 Neil James Cummins
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DC France
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Collections > LSE History of Thought theses
Supervisor: Schulze, Max-Stephan and Sear, Rebecca
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/39

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