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Can the onset of the fall of fertility in Europe be related to the economic and social circumstances of the individual countries at the time?

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PhD Student
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modern history
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LSE

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  1. Introduction
  2. Review
  3. Conclusion

Understanding the onset of the fall of fertility in Europe requires understanding of changes in mortality as it is understood that "the beginning of mortality decline generally precedes that of fertility". The 'demographic transition' saw the average number of births per women fall from around five to less than two in a relatively short period. The "demographic transition model" suggests reduced mortality preceding changes in fertility resulting in a small period when the natural population growth rate is at its pre-eminence. After this point the fertility rate drops and the national rate of population growth returns to similar pre mortality fall level. This theory implies the onset of the fall of fertility was preceded by a fall in mortality. Was this fall related to economic and social circumstances of individual countries? Social factors do not impact falls in mortality as much as falls in fertility. However economic factors did largely affect the mortality rate in Europe.

[...] The Chicago school of thought develops on this idea that the onset of the fall of fertility was based on economic circumstances surrounding the cost of children. Children's costs went up and children are considered a time intensive good whose relative cost vs. consumer goods went drastically up with women employment, education and health costs. However this argument lacks depth as education improvements and increase participation by women in the workplace came after the beginning of the demographic transition. The cost factor of children was somewhat already entrenched into European thinking in terms of fertility. [...]


[...] By contrasting some of the demographic patterns of the pre-industrial period with the era of the demographic transition, this paper attempted to demonstrate that the fall of fertility in Europe was indeed related to the economic and social circumstances. In the pre-industrial era, demographics were driven, as many scholars would argue, by the Malthusian Model when fertility was controlled to maintain sufficient living conditions and to avoid resources depletion. After the Industrial Revolution, fertility was also controlled, but more voluntarily and rationally. [...]

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