Fertility and Modernity

49 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2019

See all articles by Enrico Spolaore

Enrico Spolaore

Tufts University - Department of Economics

Romain T. Wacziarg

UCLA Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: June 2019

Abstract

We investigate the determinants of the fertility decline in Europe from 1830 to 1970 using a newly constructed dataset of linguistic distances between European regions. We find that the fertility decline resulted from a gradual diffusion of new fertility behavior from French-speaking regions to the rest of Europe. We observe that societies with higher education, lower infant mortality, higher urbanization, and higher population density had lower levels of fertility during the 19th and early 20th century. However, the fertility decline took place earlier and was initially larger in communities that were culturally closer to the French, while the fertility transition spread only later to societies that were more distant from the cultural frontier. This is consistent with a process of social influence, whereby societies that were linguistically and culturally closer to the French faced lower barriers to the adoption of new social norms and attitudes towards fertility control.

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Suggested Citation

Spolaore, Enrico and Wacziarg, Romain T., Fertility and Modernity (June 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25957. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3405144

Enrico Spolaore (Contact Author)

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Romain T. Wacziarg

UCLA Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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