Volume 27 - Article 19 | Pages 507–542

Detecting the Evolution of Deliberate Fertility Control before the Demographic Transition in Germany

By Aliaksandr Amialchuk, Elitsa Dimitrova

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Date received:14 Aug 2011
Date published:16 Oct 2012
Word count:8163
Keywords:breastfeeding, demographic transition, fertility control, Germany, replacement


Background: Previous literature has established the existence of deliberate non-parity-specific fertility control in pre-transitional populations. However, less focus has been given to the timing of its onset. In addition, previous studies focused on the changes in fertility in response to the local prices of grains, which may be endogenous.

Objective: This paper studies the emergence and evolution of deliberate fertility control by investigating the link between child mortality and economic stress on the one hand and non-parity-specific birth control on the other, in historic German villages between 1700 and 1900.

Methods: Birth histories from fourteen German villages (1700-1900) and rye price series are used in a micro-level event history analysis. The fertility response of second and higher-order births to the mortality of children over age two and exogenous fluctuations in rye price are used as measures of the extent of deliberate non-parity-specific birth control.

Results: Over the course of the demographic transition, the effect of the death of children generally increases after controlling for the effect of the death of children less than two years old. The negative fertility response to high rye prices before and in the year immediately following the price change occurred only after 1800.

Conclusions: The replacement and insurance effects associated with child mortality generally increased before the demographic transition. The emergence of the negative effect of high rye prices on fertility after 1800 further supports the presence and evolution of deliberate non-parity-specific fertility control before the demographic transition.

Author's Affiliation

Aliaksandr Amialchuk - University of Toledo, United States of America [Email]
Elitsa Dimitrova - Institute for Population and Human Studies (IPHS), Bulgaria [Email]

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