Deliberate Control in a Natural Fertility Population: Southern Sweden, 1766-1865

Tommy Bengtsson, Lund University
Martin Dribe, Lund University

The paper analyses fertility adjustment in a rural population characterized by natural fertility, by using survival analysis on a longitudinal dataset at the individual level. Non-parity specific control is measured though the fertility response to short-term economic stress. In the landless group, fertility responded quite strongly to grain prices. The response was neither dependent on number of children previously born, nor on sex composition. The seasonality patter in the response shows that the fertility effect was strongest less than six months after the harvest, which points to the conclusion that the response was deliberate. People foresaw bad times already in the late spring and early summer and planned their fertility accordingly. This evidence shows that fertility was deliberately controlled in years of economic stress, and highlights the importance of not only focusing on parity-specific measures, but also on measures affecting birth intervals independent of parity.

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Presented in Session 130: Methodological Issues in Fertility Research