Fertility Decline in the Civil Rights Era

51 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2019 Last revised: 5 Aug 2019

See all articles by Owen Thompson

Owen Thompson

Williams College - Department of Economics

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Date Written: July 2019

Abstract

Large black-white fertility differences are a key feature of US demography, and are closely related to the broader dynamics of US racial inequality. To better understand the origins and determinants of racial fertility differentials, this paper examines fertility patterns in the period surrounding passage and implementation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which precipitated a period of rapid socioeconomic and political progress among African Americans, with these gains strongly concentrated in the South. I first show that the relative fertility of southern black women precipitously declined immediately after 1964. Specifically, as of 1964 the general fertility rate of southern black women was 53 births greater than the general fertility rate of southern white women, but by 1969 this gap had fallen to 33 births, a decline of approximately 40% in five years. The black-white fertility gap outside of the South was unchanged over this period. Measures of completed childbearing similarly show rapid black-white fertility convergence in the South but not in the North. An analysis of potential mechanisms finds that a substantial share of the observed fertility convergence can be explained by relative improvements in the earnings of southern blacks, and that the historical intensity of slavery and lynching activity are the strongest spacial correlates of fertility convergence

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Suggested Citation

Thompson, Owen, Fertility Decline in the Civil Rights Era (July 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w26047. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3416349

Owen Thompson (Contact Author)

Williams College - Department of Economics ( email )

Fernald House
Williamstown, MA 01267
United States

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