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Marital fertility and wealth in transition era France, 1750-1850

  • Neil Cummins

    (PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS : UMR8545 - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) - École normale supérieure [ENS] - Paris, EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris, LSE - Economic History Department - The London school of economics and political science - The London School of Economics and Political Science)

The spectacularly early decline of French fertility is one of the great puzzles of economic history. There are no convincing explanations for why France entered a fertility transition over a century before anywhere else in the world. This analysis links highly detailed individual level fertility life histories to wealth at death data for four rural villages in transition-era France, 1750-1850. The results show that it was the richest groups who reduced their family size first and that they used spacing strategies to achieve this. In cross section, measures of the environment for social mobility are strongly associated with the fertility decline. The evidence presented here demonstrates that socioeconomic status mattered during the early French fertility decline. This study is a first step towards re-establishing the French experience as paramount in our understanding of Europe's demographic transition.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series PSE Working Papers with number halshs-00566843.

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Date of creation: May 2009
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Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00566843
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: http://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00566843
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  1. Oded_Galor, 2004. "From Stagnation to Growth:Unified Growth Theory," Working Papers 2004-15, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  2. Mario Cleves & William W. Gould & Roberto G. Gutierrez & Yulia Marchenko, 2010. "An Introduction to Survival Analysis Using Stata," Stata Press books, StataCorp LP, edition 3, number saus3, November.
  3. Guinnane, Timothy W. & Moehling, Carolyn M. & O Grada, Cormac, 2006. "The fertility of the Irish in the United States in 1910," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 465-485, July.
  4. Tommy Bengtsson & Martin Dribe, 2006. "Deliberate control in a natural fertility population: Southern Sweden, 1766–1864," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(4), pages 727-746, November.
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