The impact of kin availability, parental religiosity, and nativity on fertility differentials in the late 19th-century United States

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METHODS Most quantitative research on fertility decline in the United States ignores the potential impact of cultural and familial factors. We rely on new complete-count data from the 1880 US census to construct couple-level measures of nativity/ethnicity, religiosity, and kin availability. We include these measures with a comprehensive set of demographic, economic, and contextual variables in Poisson regression models of net marital fertility to assess their relative importance. We construct models with and without area-fixed effects to control for unobserved heterogeneity. CONTRIBUTION All else being equal, we find a strong impact of nativity on recent net marital fertility. Fertility differentials among second-generation couples relative to the native-born white population of native parentage were in most cases less than half of the differential observed among first-generation immigrants, suggesting greater assimilation to nativeborn American childbearing norms. Our measures of parental religiosity and familial propinquity indicate a more modest impact on marital fertility. Couples who chose biblical names for their children had approximately 3% more children than couples relying on secular names, while the presence of a potential mother-in-law in a nearby household was associated with 2% more children. Overall, our results demonstrate the need for more inclusive models of fertility behavior that include cultural and familial covariates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1080
Number of pages32
JournalDemographic Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 13 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research was supported in part by funds provided to the Minnesota Population Center from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grants R24-HD041023 and from NICHD Grants K01-HD052617 and R01-HD082120. The authors received valuable feedback from participants at the Power of the Family conference in Wageningen in October 2015, organized by Hilde Bras. We received additional valuable feedback at the Population Association of America and International Union for the Scientific Study of Population meetings in 2016, and a Minnesota Population Center seminar in 2017. We thank the two anonymous referees for their suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 J. David Hacker & Evan Roberts.


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