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The Second Demographic Transition in the United States: Exception or Textbook Example?

Publication Abstract

Lesthaeghe, Ron J., and Lisa Neidert. 2006. "The Second Demographic Transition in the United States: Exception or Textbook Example?" Population and Development Review, 32(4): 669-698.

This article examines the spatial patterns and correlates of fertility among non-Hispanic white women in the United States. While the United States is often discussed as an exception to the below-replacement-fertility patterns of Europe, our analysis documents that marriage and fertility postponement and premarital cohabitation in the US are following the same trends as in western Europe. In fact, several Northeastern states in the US show age-specific fertility trends that are in line with the Netherlands, which has the latest age schedule of fertility in Europe.

The United States is well on its way to a second demographic transition (SDT) with rising ages at marriage, growing rates of cohabitation, increases in single person households, declining remarriage rates, a trend towards fertility postponement, and higher rates of childlessness. However, just as in Europe, major regional leads and lags in patterns of reproduction and political values are present in the United States. The states in the Northeastern US as well as those on the west coast and along the Great Lakes, exhibit family formation and fertility patterns that are very similar to those of Europe, while much of the South, the Great Plains, and some Mountain states, exhibit traditional patterns of fertility based on early marriage and childbearing, and high teen and non-marital fertility. The same states that score high on the SDT factor are also the “blue” states of the last few political elections. The second demographic transition is clearly correlated with religious and political dimensions. After controlling for structural, ethnic, and religious factors, we find that the SDT patterning is co-responsible for the political divide and election results in the US.

DOI:10.1111/j.1728-4457.2006.00146.x (Full Text)

SDT Project web site

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