The influence of kin proximity on the reproductive success of american couples, 1900–1910

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Children require a large amount of time, effort, and resources to raise. Physical help, financial contributions, medical care, and other types of assistance from kin and social network members allow couples to space births closer together while maintaining or increasing child survival. We examine the impact of kin availability on couples’ reproductive success in the early twentieth-century United States with a panel data set of over 3.1 million couples linked between the 1900 and 1910 U.S. censuses. Our results indicate that kin proximity outside the household was positively associated with fertility, child survival, and net reproduction, and suggest that declining kin availability was an important contributing factor to the fertility transition in the United States. We also find important differences between maternal and paternal kin inside the household—including higher fertility among women residing with their mother-in-law than among those residing with their mother—that support hypotheses related to the contrasting motivations and concerns of parents and parents-in-law.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2337-2364
Number of pages28
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was supported in part by funding from the Minnesota Population Center (P2C HD041023) and by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (R01-HD082120-01). An early version of this paper was presented at the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population seminar “Kinship and Reproduction in Past Societies,”held at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, August 22–23, 2019. We thank the seminar participants and anonymous referees for many helpful comments and suggestions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors.


  • Fertility decline
  • Historical demography
  • Kinship
  • Longitudinal studies


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