Volume 38 - Article 40 | Pages 1189–1240

Measuring and explaining the baby boom in the developed world in the mid-twentieth century

By Jesús J. Sánchez-Barricarte

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Date received:14 Sep 2017
Date published:27 Mar 2018
Word count:7174
Keywords:20th century, baby boom, developed countries, fertility, fertility decline, fertility transition


Background: The early research on the baby boom tried to account for it as a logical recovery following the end of the Second World War (WWII). But it cannot be understood merely as a post-war phenomenon because its origins go back to the 1930s and early 1940s.

Objective: I shall describe the methodology used to measure the total and marital baby boom and provide a detailed description of it. I shall attempt to explain the possible reasons that led to the sharp increase in the marital fertility rates and its subsequent decline.

Methods: I will use various fertility indices that track the historical development of fertility (total and marital; period and cohort).

Results: I show that there are major differences in the measurement of the baby boom depending on the index used. I found that the baby boom is highly heterogeneous in the 25 countries that form part of my study. It represented the logical response that families made to one period of prolonged political, economic, and military crisis (the crash of 1929 and WWII).

Conclusions: Researchers who use only the total fertility indices are really analysing only the nuptiality boom, which took place during those years, rather than changes in reproductive behaviour.

Contribution: I measure total and marital baby boom for 25 developed countries and perform the calculations to measure the impact of marital fertility and nuptiality on the total baby boom (TBB). I present a new explanation of the origins of the baby boom.

Author's Affiliation

Jesús J. Sánchez-Barricarte - Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» Historical reproductive patterns in developed countries: Aggregate-level perspective
Volume 38 - Article 2

» 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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