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Family size and intergenerational social mobility during the fertility transition

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Author Info

  • Jan Van Bavel

    (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

  • Sarah Moreels

    (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

  • Bart Van de Putte

    (Ghent University)

  • Koen Matthijs

    (KU Leuven)

Abstract

It has been argued in sociology, economics, and evolutionary anthropology that family size limitation enhances the intergenerational upward mobility chances in modernized societies. If parents have a large flock, family resources get diluted and intergenerational mobility is bound to head downwards. Yet, the empirical record supporting this resource dilution hypothesis is limited. This article investigates the empirical association between family size limitation and intergenerational mobility in an urban, late nineteenth century population in Western Europe. It uses life course data from the Belgian city of Antwerp between 1846 and 1920. Findings are consistent with the resource dilution hypothesis: after controlling for confounding factors, people with many children were more likely to end up in the lower classes. Yet, family size limitation was effective as a defensive rather than an offensive strategy: it prevented the next generation from going down rather than helping them to climb up the social ladder. Also, family size appears to have been particularly relevant for the middle classes. Implications for demographic transition theory are discussed.

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File URL: http://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol24/14/24-14.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany in its journal Demographic Research.

Volume (Year): 24 (2011)
Issue (Month): 14 (February)
Pages: 313-344

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Handle: RePEc:dem:demres:v:24:y:2011:i:14

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Web page: http://www.demogr.mpg.de/

Related research

Keywords: Belgium; demographic transition; fertility; nineteenth century; parental investment; quantity-quality trade-off; resource dilution; social mobility;

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Cited by:
  1. Martin Dribe & Francesco Scalone, 2014. "Social class and net fertility before, during, and after the demographic transition: A micro-level analysis of Sweden 1880-1970," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 30(15), pages 429-464, February.
  2. Alan Fernihough, 2011. "Human Capital and the Quantity-Quality Trade-Off during the Demographic Transition: New Evidence from Ireland," Working Papers 201113, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  3. Martin Dribe & Jan Van Bavel & Cameron Campbell, 2012. "Social Mobility and Demographic Behaviour: Long Term Perspectives," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 26(8), pages 173-190, March.

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