Fertility decline in the southeastern Austrian Crown lands. Was there a Hajnal line or a transitional zone?
There is a substantial body of literature on the subject of fertility decline in Europe during the first demographic transition. Historical demographic research on this topic started in Western Europe, but, as a result of the discussion of the Hajnal line thesis, the decline in fertility has been more thoroughly explored for Eastern Europe (especially Poland and Hungary) than for areas in between, like Austria. This project and this working paper will seek to close this gap by addressing the question of whether the Austrian Crown lands in the southeast represented not just an administrative, but also a demographic border. Using aggregated data from the political districts, this paper will review the classic research about, as well as the methods and definitions of, fertility decline. Our results show that, even the Crown land level, which was used in the Princeton Fertility Project, is much too high for studying significant regional and systemic differences and patterns of fertility changes and decline. This process is interpreted as a result of economic and social modernization, which brought new challenges, as well as new options. Thus, fertility decline should not be seen as a linear and sequential process, but rather as a process driven by the sometimes paradoxical interdependencies of problems and opportunities faced by families and social groups.
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