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Early Fertility Decline in the United States: Tests of Alternative Hypotheses using New Complete-Count Census Microdata and Enhanced County-Level Data

Author

Listed:
  • Michael R. Haines
  • J. David Hacker
  • Matthew S. Jaremski

Abstract

The U.S. fertility transition in the nineteenth century is unusual. Not only did it start from a very high fertility level and very early in the nation’s development, but it also took place long before the nation’s mortality transition, industrialization, and urbanization. This paper assembles new county-level, household-level, and individual-level data, including new complete-count IPUMS microdata databases of the 1830-1880 censuses, to evaluate different theories for the nineteenth-century American fertility transition. We construct cross-sectional models of net fertility for currently-married white couples in census years 1830-1880 and test the results with subset of couples linked between the 1850-1860 and 1860-1870 censuses. We find evidence of marital fertility control consistent with hypotheses as early as 1830. The results indicate support for several different but complementary theories of the early U.S. fertility decline, including the land availability, conventional structuralist, ideational, child demand/quality-quantity trade-off, and life-cycle savings theories.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael R. Haines & J. David Hacker & Matthew S. Jaremski, 2020. "Early Fertility Decline in the United States: Tests of Alternative Hypotheses using New Complete-Count Census Microdata and Enhanced County-Level Data," NBER Working Papers 27668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27668
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, June.
    2. Leet, Don R., 1976. "The Determinants of the Fertility Transition in Antebellum Ohio," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(2), pages 359-378, June.
    3. Sascha Becker & Francesco Cinnirella & Ludger Woessmann, 2010. "The trade-off between fertility and education: evidence from before the demographic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 177-204, September.
    4. Timothy W. Guinnane, 2011. "The Historical Fertility Transition: A Guide for Economists," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(3), pages 589-614, September.
    5. Thomas N. Maloney & Heidi Hanson & Ken R. Smith, 2013. "Occupation and Fertility on the Frontier: Evidence from the State of Utah," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of Utah 2013_2, University of Utah, Department of Economics.
    6. Easterlin, Richard A., 1976. "Population Change and Farm Settlement in the Northern United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(1), pages 45-75, March.
    7. Martin Dribe & Michel Oris & Lucia Pozzi, 2014. "Socioeconomic status and fertility before, during, and after the demographic transition: An introduction," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 31(7), pages 161-182.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N21 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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