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Fertility and Modernity

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  • Enrico Spolaore
  • Romain Wacziarg

Abstract

We investigate the determinants of the fertility decline in Europe from 1830 to 1970 using a newly constructed dataset of linguistic distances between European regions. We find that the fertility decline resulted from a gradual diffusion of new fertility behavior from French-speaking regions to the rest of Europe. We observe that societies with higher education, lower infant mortality, higher urbanization, and higher population density had lower levels of fertility during the 19th and early 20th century. However, the fertility decline took place earlier and was initially larger in communities that were culturally closer to the French, while the fertility transition spread only later to societies that were more distant from the cultural frontier. This is consistent with a process of social influence, whereby societies that were linguistically and culturally closer to the French faced lower barriers to the adoption of new social norms and attitudes towards fertility control.

Suggested Citation

  • Enrico Spolaore & Romain Wacziarg, 2019. "Fertility and Modernity," CESifo Working Paper Series 7745, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_7745
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    Cited by:

    1. Brian Beach & W. Walker Hanlon, 2019. "Censorship, Family Planning, and the Historical Fertility Transition," NBER Working Papers 25752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Cai, Jie & Stoyanov, Andrey, 2016. "Population aging and comparative advantage," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 1-21.
    3. Chabé-Ferret, Bastien, 2019. "Adherence to cultural norms and economic incentives: Evidence from fertility timing decisions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 24-48.
    4. de la Croix, David & Perrin, Faustine, 2018. "How far can economic incentives explain the French fertility and education transition?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 221-245.
    5. Andrew Dickens, 2018. "Population relatedness and cross-country idea flows: evidence from book translations," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 23(4), pages 367-386, December.
    6. Johnson, Noel, 2015. "Taxes, National Identity, and Nation Building: Evidence from France," MPRA Paper 63598, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Robert TAMURA & David CUBERES, 2020. "Equilibrium and A-efficient Fertility with Increasing Returns to Population and Endogenous Mortality," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 86(2), pages 157-182, June.
    8. Enrico Spolaore, 2019. "Commanding Nature by Obeying Her: A Review Essay on Joel Mokyr’s A Culture of Growth," NBER Working Papers 26061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    fertility control; diffusion; social norms; cultural barriers; demographic transition;

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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