US Fertility Rates and Childbearing in American Economic History, 1800-2010

US Fertility Rates and Childbearing in American Economic History, 1800-2010

Publication Abstract

Bailey, Martha J., and Brad Hershbein. 2018. "US Fertility Rates and Childbearing in American Economic History, 1800-2010." In The Oxford Handbook of American Economic History edited by Cain, Louis P., Fishback, Price V., Rhode, Paul W.. Oxford University Press.

Over the past two centuries, the United States has witnessed dramatic changes in fertility rates and childbearing. Demand factors such as industrialization, urbanization, rising family incomes, public health improvements, and the growth in women's wages generally have reduced the benefits and raised the costs of having many children. Supply factors such as increases in infant and child survival and improvements in the technology of birth control and abortion have also altered parents' decisions about their childbearing. This chapter discusses the long-run trends in US fertility rates and completed childbearing, both overall and by mothers' race/ethnicity and region, within three broad periods: the 1800 to 1930 decline in fertility rates, the 1930 to 1960 stabilization in fertility rates followed by the babyboom, and the post-1960 decline and subsequent stabilization in fertility rates. We discuss the determinants of childbearing in each period, including both economic and demographic explanations for these patterns. A final section weighs the evidence supporting the existence of two fertility transitions: a first transition driven by shifts in the demand for children and a second transition catalyzed by changes in supply side factors.

ISBN: 978-0-19-093706-5

Business & Economics / Economic History History / Social History History / United States / State & Local / General

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