Volume 30 - Article 29 | Pages 853-886

Occupation and fertility on the frontier: Evidence from the state of Utah

By Thomas N. Maloney, Heidi A. Hanson, Ken R. Smith

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Date received:18 Jun 2013
Date published:19 Mar 2014
Word count:8093
Keywords:fertility transition, historical demography, occupation, socio-economic status
Weblink:You will find all publications in this Special Collection “Socioeconomic status and fertility before, during and after the demographic transition” at http://www.demographic-research.org/special/14/


Background: Most of what we know about fertility decline in the United States comes from aggregate (often state or county level) data sources. It is difficult to identify variation in fertility change across socio-economic classes in such data, although understanding such variation would provide deeper insight into the history of the fertility transition.

Objective: We use rich micro-level data to examine differences across occupational classes in fertility levels and in the timing and pace of change in fertility in the US state of Utah in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Methods: Our evidence comes from the Utah Population Database, which contains several generations of linked family histories, including information on residents of Utah from the mid-1800s to the present. We use standard linear regression models to identify variation in fertility across birth cohorts and occupational classes as well as cohort-occupation interaction effects (to identify differences across classes in the pace of change over time)

Results: Families of white collar workers led changes in many fertility-related behaviors, particularly those tied to the start of family life (marriage age and first birth interval). Farm families had high fertility levels and added children into late ages, although they also experienced declining fertility.

Conclusions: Examination of detailed micro-level data on fertility change identifies important differences in the patterns of change which may be tied to variation in relevant economic circumstances - for instance, the length of education and training required for particular occupations, or the need for family-based labor on the farm.

Author's Affiliation

Thomas N. Maloney - University of Utah, United States of America [Email]
Heidi A. Hanson - University of Utah, United States of America [Email]
Ken R. Smith - University of Utah, United States of America [Email]

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