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