The Puzzle of the Antebellum Fertility Decline in the United States: New Evidence and Reconsideration

David J Hacker, Michael R Haines

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper uses improved source data to test various theories of U.S. antebellum fertility decline. In the first part of the analysis, we rely on child-woman ratios and other county-level aggregate data from the population and economic censuses of 1800 to 1860 and the agricultural and manufacturing censuses of 1840-1860 to evaluate a number of hypotheses. Data on churches in 1850 and 1860 provide some indications of ideational differences across counties. We supplement these commonly-used data in a number of ways. We include, for example, new estimates of urbanization and the geographic areas of the counties in all census years. More critically, for the 1850 and 1860 analysis, we include aggregated estimates of nuptiality constructed with the 1850 and 1860 IPUMS samples. We are thus able to determine whether identified correlates of child-woman ratios in the antebellum period remain significant when nuptiality is included in the modelin other words, to suggest whether the correlates of child-woman ratios act as Malthusian or neo-Malthusian adjustments. We take this analysis one step further in the second part of the analysis, where we rely on the 1850 and 1860 IPUMS samples to model marital fertility at the individual level.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2004


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