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Key forces behind the decline of fertility: lessons from childlessness in Rouen before the industrial revolution

Author

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  • Sandra Brée

    (LARHRA - LAboratoire de Recherche Historique Rhône-Alpes - UMR5190 - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UJML - Université Jean Moulin - Lyon 3 - Université de Lyon - Université de Lyon - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UGA [2016-2019] - Université Grenoble Alpes [2016-2019], LARHRA APMU - Action publique et mondes urbains - LARHRA - LAboratoire de Recherche Historique Rhône-Alpes - UMR5190 - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UJML - Université Jean Moulin - Lyon 3 - Université de Lyon - Université de Lyon - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UGA [2016-2019] - Université Grenoble Alpes [2016-2019])

  • David de la Croix

    (CORE - Department of Economics - UCL - Université Catholique de Louvain)

Abstract

To better understand the forces underlying fertility decisions, we look at the forerunners of fertility decline. In Rouen, France, completed fertility dropped between 1640 and 1792 from 7.4 to 4.2 children. We review the list of possible explanations and keep only three: increase in materialism, women's empowerment and increase in returning to education. We propose a theory that shows that we can discriminate between these explanations by looking at childlessness and its social gradient. An increase in materialism or, under certain conditions, an increase in women's empowerment, leads to an increase in childlessness, while an increase in returning to education leads to a decrease in childlessness. Looking at the Rouen data, childlessness is clearly on the rise, from 4% in 1640 to 10% at the end of the 18th century, which appears to discredit the explanation based on increasing returns to education, at least for this period.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Sandra Brée & David de la Croix, 2017. "Key forces behind the decline of fertility: lessons from childlessness in Rouen before the industrial revolution," Post-Print halshs-01624694, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-01624694
    DOI: 10.1007/s11698-017-0166-9
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01624694
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    Cited by:

    1. David de la Croix & Eric B. Schneider & Jacob Weisdorf, 2019. "Childlessness, celibacy and net fertility in pre-industrial England: the middle-class evolutionary advantage," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 223-256, September.
    2. Le Bris, David & Tallec, Ronan, 2021. "The European Marriage Pattern and its Positive Consequences Montesquieu-Volvestre, 1660-1789," MPRA Paper 105324, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Jianchoun Dou, 2021. "Variety, Fertility, and Long-term Economic Growth," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2021020, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    4. Gobbi, Paula & Goñi, Marc, 2018. "Childless Aristocrats. Inheritance and the extensive margin of fertility," CEPR Discussion Papers 12744, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Thomas TB Baudin & David De la Croix & Paula Eugenia Gobbi, 2019. "Childlessness and Economic Development: a Survey," Working Papers ECARES 2019-03, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. Paula Eugenia Gobbi & Marc Goñi, 2020. "Childless Aristocrats. Inheritance and the Extensive Margin of Fertility," Working Papers ECARES 2020-03, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    7. Blanc, Guillaume & Wacziarg, Romain, 2020. "Change and persistence in the Age of Modernization: Saint-Germain-d’Anxure, 1730–1895," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

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