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When Smaller Families Look Contagious: A Spatial Look At The French Fertility Decline Using An Agent-Based Simulation Model

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  • Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon

    (Nuffield College and Department of Sociology, University of Oxford)

  • Tommy Murphy

    (IGIER and Centro Dondena, Universita Bocconi)

Abstract

Despite some disagreements about specific timing, it is now widely accepted that France was the first European country to experience a systematic decline in fertility, a decline that took place in a very distinctive geographical pattern. Whereas two areas of low birth rates (the Seine valley and the Aquitaine region) kept spreading, two ‘islands’ of high fertility (Bretagne and the Massif Central) shrank until they more or less disappeared in the early 1900s. In an attempt to provide a sensible explanation of this pattern, we build an agent-based simulation model which incorporates both historical data on population characteristics and spatial information on the geography of France, and allows us to study the role of social influence in fertility decisions. We assess how different behavioural assumptions and network topologies cause variations in diffusion patterns, using quantitative data on the Ecclesiastical Oath of 1791 to proxy for the impact the Revolution. Analysis of several simulations shows that a combination of both endogenous and exogenous factors help to explain the way in which the diffusion took place and suggests some of the mechanisms through which this was materialised.

Suggested Citation

  • Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon & Tommy Murphy, 2008. "When Smaller Families Look Contagious: A Spatial Look At The French Fertility Decline Using An Agent-Based Simulation Model," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _071, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_071
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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/3457/71murphy.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tommy E. Murphy, 2010. "Old Habits Die Hard (Sometimes) Can département heterogeneity tell us something about the French fertility decline??," Working Papers 364, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guillaume Daudin & Raphaël Franck & Hillel Rapoport, 2016. "The cultural diffusion of the fertility transition: evidence from internal migration in 19 th century France," PSE - G-MOND WORKING PAPERS halshs-01321952, HAL.
    2. Paul A. David & S. Ryan Johansson & Andrea Pozzi, 2010. "The Demography of an Early Mortality Transition: Life Expectancy, Survival and Mortality Rates for Britain's Royals, 1500-1799," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _083, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic history; demographic history (Europe pre-1913); France; demographic economics; fertility; simulation models (agent-based); diffusion.;

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • C15 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Statistical Simulation Methods: General

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