Early fertility decline in the united states: Tests of alternative hypotheses using new complete-count census microdata and enhanced county-level data

J. David Hacker, Michael R. Haines, Matthew Jaremski

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

The US fertility transition in the nineteenth century is unusual. Not only did it start from a very high fertility level and very early in the nation’s development, but it also took place long before the nation’s mortality transition, industrialization, and urbanization. This paper assembles new county-level, householdlevel, and individual-level data, including new complete-count IPUMS microdata databases of the 1830–1880 censuses, to evaluate different theories for the nineteenth-century American fertility transition. We construct cross-sectional models of net fertility for currently-married white couples in census years 1830–1880 and test the results with a subset of couples linked between the 1850–1860, 1860–1870, and 1870–1880 censuses. We find evidence of marital fertility control consistent with hypotheses as early as 1830. The results indicate support for several different but complementary theories of the early US fertility decline, including the land availability, conventional structuralist, ideational, child demand/quality-quantity tradeoff, and life cycle savings theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationResearch in Economic History
PublisherEmerald Group Holdings Ltd.
Pages89-128
Number of pages40
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameResearch in Economic History
Volume37
ISSN (Print)0363-3268

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the Minnesota Population Center (P2CHD041023), funded through a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). We also wish to thank Ran Abramitzky, Leah Boustan, and Myera Rashid, who published their census crosswalks online for public use. This project was also supported by a research grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01-HD082120-01Q3).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by Emerald Publishing Limited.

Keywords

  • Banking
  • Demand for children
  • Fertility transition
  • IPUMS
  • Life cycle savings model
  • Nineteenth-century US

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