Demographic practices are spatially embedded 'lore' The co-ordinates of Le Play's household typology

3. Household patterns in historic Europe and the present demographic choices

As I said, Le Play does not confine himself to an abstract typology of household patterns: he locates them minutely on the regional map of Europe. In the geography of Le Play (recently recovered and systematised by Todd [1983]) the stem-family area includes the Northern and Pyrenean regions of Spain [Note 10], Pyrenean [Note 11] and Mediterranean [Note 12] regions of France and Central-Northern Regions of Italy [Note 13]. It is surprising to note how closely, in the three most populous countries of South-continental Europe (France, Spain and Italy), Le Play's stem-family map and the map of current fertility stagnation overlap. Let us classify these regions (Eurostat data, NUTS level 2) in compliance with the rank order of the total fertility rates 1983-1993 within each country: in tabs. 2-4 we found that all Le Play's stem-family regions are located above the line of the median national value.



Extending the analysis to neighbouring countries - where Le Play's exploration could be less analytical - does not radically change the framework. This is particularly true for the Swiss Cantons and for Austria, where the Southern-Eastern regions [Note 14], together with Friuli in Italy, form a bridge to Slovenia, exactly as in Le Play. The result is a sort of Southern European orographic ridge: it unfolds from West to East along the cordillera, the Pyrenees, the Cevennes, the Alps and the Apennines. It is the breeding ground both of stem-family culture and of the drastic current changes in reproductive behaviour.

It is more difficult to use the stem-family area map which La Play drew up for Germany. According to Le Play [Note 15], the Southern European orographic ridge actually extends over the whole of the Danube basin (Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria) and from there it follows a South-North line running through the Rhineland and reaching Denmark via Hannover, Lüneburg and Schleswig-Holstein. The stem-family area therefore seems to cover a large part of western Germany: other factors can explain internal distinctions [Note 16]. As a proof, the change in the capitalist spirit, described as a reduction in the time horizon of the family home [Note 17], is found by Schumpeter [1943] at the core of the region where social and political scientists nowadays sometimes locate the German (or Rhenish) "variants on the conservative welfare model".

However, this East-West demarcation line does not significantly find a match in the rank-ordering of the 40 Regierungsbezirke according to the TFR. This could be because its effects are largely swamped by the consequences of the GDR's political breakdown. The collapse of the TFRs of the Regierungsbezirke of Eastern Germany could be hiding the previous tradition of lower fertility in the Rhine and Danube areas, compared with the Elbe region.



Demographic practices are spatially embedded 'lore' The co-ordinates of Le Play's household typology

Kinship, Family and Social Network: The anthropological embedment of fertility change in Southern Europe
Giuseppe A. Micheli
© 2000 Max-Planck-Gesellschaft ISSN 1435-9871