Volume 31 - Article 7 | Pages 161–182  

Socioeconomic status and fertility before, during, and after the demographic transition: An introduction

By Martin Dribe, Michel Oris, Lucia Pozzi

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


Background: Despite a long interest in the historical fertility transition, there is still a lack of knowledge about disaggregated patterns that could help us understand the mechanisms behind the transition. In previous research the widely held view is that there was a change in the association between social status and fertility in conjunction with the fertility transition, implying that fertility went from being positively connected to social status (higher status was connected with higher fertility) to being negatively associated with fertility.

Objective: The aim of this collection is to study socioeconomic patterns in the fertility transition in a variety of contexts using similar approaches and measures of socioeconomic status.

Methods: All contributions use different kinds of micro-level socioeconomic and demographic data and statistical models in the analysis. Data either come from census-like records or population registers.

Conclusions: There is no consistent evidence for the hypothesis that socioeconomic status was positively related to fertility before the demographic transition. While such a correlation was clearly present in some contexts it was clearly not in other contexts. There is more unanimous support for the idea that the upper-and middle classes acted as forerunners in the transition, while especially farmers were late to change their fertility behavior. It is also evident that both parity-specific stopping and prolonged birth intervals (spacing) were important in the fertility transition.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Coping with ageing: An historical longitudinal study of internal return migrations later in life in the Netherlands
Volume 46 - Article 27

Demographic characteristics of Sardinian centenarian genealogies: Preliminary results of the AKeA2 study
Volume 32 - Article 37

Maternal longevity is associated with lower infant mortality
Volume 31 - Article 42

Fertility transition and social stratification in the town of Alghero, Sardinia (1866-1935)
Volume 30 - Article 28

The historical fertility transition at the micro level: Southern Sweden 1815-1939
Volume 30 - Article 17

Social class and net fertility before, during, and after the demographic transition: A micro-level analysis of Sweden 1880-1970
Volume 30 - Article 15

Social mobility and demographic behaviour: Long term perspectives
Volume 26 - Article 8

Family life in power couples.: Continued childbearing and union stability among the educational elite in Sweden, 1991–2005
Volume 23 - Article 30

Marriage choices and social reproduction: The interrelationship between partner selection and intergenerational socioeconomic mobility in 19th-century Sweden
Volume 22 - Article 14

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Near-universal marriage, early childbearing, and low fertility: India’s alternative fertility transition
Volume 48 - Article 34    | Keywords: age at birth, fertility transition, India, low fertility, sterilisation

Educational pairings and fertility decline in Brazil: An analysis using cohort fertility
Volume 46 - Article 6    | Keywords: Brazil, cohort fertility, educational pairings, fertility transition

“Everyone tries to avoid responsibility” The attenuating role of financial obligations in fertility change among Yorùbá farmers of southwestern Nigeria
Volume 43 - Article 26    | Keywords: farmers, fertility, fertility transition, population, wealth flows, Yorùbá

Mobile phones, digital inequality, and fertility: Longitudinal evidence from Malawi
Volume 42 - Article 37    | Keywords: digital divide, fertility transition, mobile phones, social interaction

The emergence of birth limitation as a new stage in the fertility transition in sub-Saharan Africa
Volume 42 - Article 30    | Keywords: birth interval, birth limitation, fertility transition, sub-Saharan Africa