Volume 30 - Article 28 | Pages 823–852  

Fertility transition and social stratification in the town of Alghero, Sardinia (1866-1935)

By Marco Breschi, Massimo Esposito, Stanislao Mazzoni, Lucia Pozzi

This article is part of the Special Collection 14 "Socioeconomic status and fertility before, during and after the demographic transition"


Background: Despite the large amount of research on European fertility transition, the mechanisms of this demographic process are still poorly understood. This is particularly true in the Italian demographic experience, especially for some regions.

Objective: We wish to improve the knowledge of the determinants of fertility transition in Sardinia, a region situated in the heart of the Mediterranean but paradoxically one which is the least „Mediterranean‟ region of the country. The analysis of SES differentials and their evolution over the transition process is the core purpose of this paper

Methods: We use a complex individual database deriving from the combination of civil and religious sources of Alghero, a large costal town in north-western Sardinia. Our analysis is focussed on the reproductive history of Alghero marriage cohorts (1866-1905), followed through the mid-1930s. A micro-level statistical analysis is performed on legitimate births of parity 2+.

Results: We find that, in the period under examination, the process of fertility decline already underway in the northern and central regions, was almost absent in Alghero. However we did prove significant socio-economic differentials in marital fertility. The "elite" group shows the first clear signs of deliberate marital fertility control.

Conclusions: The results testify to a new and more conscious attitude towards birth control adopted by the elite minority, while no significant change is detectable for the rest of the population until the 1930s. This is the first research carried out at the individual level related to an urban population in Southern Italy.

Author's Affiliation

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