Volume 24 - Article 14 | Pages 313-344

Family size and intergenerational social mobility during the fertility transition: Evidence of resource dilution from the city of Antwerp in nineteenth century Belgium

By Jan Van Bavel, Sarah Moreels, Bart Van de Putte, Koen Matthijs

Print this page  Send this article to a friend  Twitter

 

 
Date received:03 Nov 2009
Date published:18 Feb 2011
Word count:8551
Keywords:Belgium, demographic transition, fertility, nineteenth century, parental investment, quantity-quality trade-off, resource dilution, social mobility
DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2011.24.14
Weblink:You will find all publications in this Special Collection “Social Mobility and Demographic Behaviour: A Long-Term Perspective” at http://www.demographic-research.org/special/10/
 

Abstract

It has been argued in sociology, economics, and evolutionary anthropology that family size limitation enhances the intergenerational upward mobility chances in modernized societies. If parents have a large flock, family resources get diluted and intergenerational mobility is bound to head downwards. Yet, the empirical record supporting this resource dilution hypothesis is limited. This article investigates the empirical association between family size limitation and intergenerational mobility in an urban, late nineteenth century population in Western Europe. It uses life course data from the Belgian city of Antwerp between 1846 and 1920. Findings are consistent with the resource dilution hypothesis: after controlling for confounding factors, people with many children were more likely to end up in the lower classes. Yet, family size limitation was effective as a defensive rather than an offensive strategy: it prevented the next generation from going down rather than helping them to climb up the social ladder. Also, family size appears to have been particularly relevant for the middle classes. Implications for demographic transition theory are discussed.

Author's Affiliation

Jan Van Bavel - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium [Email]
Sarah Moreels - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium [Email]
Bart Van de Putte - Ghent University, Belgium [Email]
Koen Matthijs - KU Leuven, Belgium [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» The mid-twentieth century Baby Boom and the changing educational gradient in Belgian cohort fertility
Volume 30 - Article 33

» Estimating the contribution of mothers of foreign origin to total fertility: The recent recovery of period fertility in the Belgian region of Flanders
Volume 30 - Article 12

» Post-divorce custody arrangements and binuclear family structures of Flemish adolescents
Volume 28 - Article 15

» Regional family cultures and child care by grandparents in Europe
Volume 27 - Article 4

» Social Mobility and Demographic Behaviour: Long Term Perspectives
Volume 26 - Article 8

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» Social mobility and fertility
Volume 17 - Article 15    | Keywords: demographic transition, fertility, social mobility

» Socioeconomic fertility differentials in a late transition setting: A micro-level analysis of the Saguenay region in Quebec
Volume 30 - Article 38    | Keywords: demographic transition, fertility

» When not to have another baby: An evolutionary approach to low fertility
Volume 30 - Article 37    | Keywords: demographic transition, parental investment

» The mid-twentieth century Baby Boom and the changing educational gradient in Belgian cohort fertility
Volume 30 - Article 33    | Keywords: Belgium, fertility

» Estimating the contribution of mothers of foreign origin to total fertility: The recent recovery of period fertility in the Belgian region of Flanders
Volume 30 - Article 12    | Keywords: Belgium, fertility