Volume 38 - Article 2 | Pages 37–94  

Historical reproductive patterns in developed countries: Aggregate-level perspective

By Jesús J. Sánchez-Barricarte


Background: One of the fundamental arguments sustaining the classical demographic transition theory was that couples wanted to have a given number of surviving children, not a specific number of births. However, this cornerstone of transition theory came in for severe criticism in the wake of the results published in many studies linked to the Princeton European Fertility Project (PEFP). In recent years, studies using longitudinal microdata have made important contributions towards clarifying the relationship between mortality and fertility during the transition.

Objective: We will show that aggregated data (from both the national and the provincial sphere) can lead to conclusions similar to those obtained at micro-level.

Methods: Employing information from 25 developed countries, this article analyzes trends in net reproduction (rather than just the intensity of births) over a long period of time. We also quantify in detail the different influences of marital fertility, mortality, and nuptiality on historical developments in net total reproduction.

Results: Our analysis reveals a great diversity in the reproductive patterns followed in different countries in the process of regulating the total number of births. We also detect the existence of a nonhomogeneous effect of mortality on net reproduction during the demographic transition.

Conclusions: There is little point in analyzing fertility trends if we leave out the mortality scenario that forms the background to these tendencies.

Contribution: The results of this study using aggregated data (covering longer periods of time and larger geographical areas) are fully in line with those of recent projects using microdata from family reconstructions.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Measuring and explaining the baby boom in the developed world in the mid-twentieth century
Volume 38 - Article 40

The long-term determinants of marital fertility in the developed world (19th and 20th centuries): The role of welfare policies
Volume 36 - Article 42

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