The Human Cost of War: Southern Population and Family Structure in the Era of the American Civil War

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


Although it is well known that the American Civil War resulted in the death of over 620,000 men of military age, little is known about the war's long-term demographic and social consequences. This dissertation uses newly created IPUMS samples of the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 federal censuses to investigate the impact of the American Civil War on white birth rates and the timing and incidence of white marriage. Despite the large number of men killed in the conflict, demographic analysis indicates that the war had no lasting impact on women's marriage prospects. The war did cause a short-term deficit of approximately 1.2 million white births, but birth rates soon returned to the level predicted by their long-term trend. Although the wartime birth deficit was smaller in absolute numbers in the South than in the North, the percentage of the expected number of births was almost two times larger because of the South's smaller population base. The difference probably reflects the higher proportion of southern men who participated and died in the Civil War than northern men, and the greater economic stresses and uncertainties in the Confederate South. The dissertation also examines the long-term decline in nineteenth-century birth rates in more detail than has been heretofore possible. Estimates are made of sex- and age-specific census underenumeration, and the results are used to help construct own-child estimates of total fertility and total marital fertility. The results suggest that white women in the United States not effectively truncating childbearing until after 1850. In 1860, however, white women in the Northeast census divisions were limiting their number of births, and women in other northern regions began controlling fertility soon thereafter. There is no clear evidence that white women in the South, however, were practicing effective stopping behavior as late as 1880. In addition to region, a number of demographic and economic factors were found to be correlated with marital fertility, including age, occupation of spouse, land availability, and proxies of religion and religiosity
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationMinneapolis, MN
StatePublished - 2000


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