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The Secular Increase in Fecundity in German Village Populations: An Analysis of Reproductive Histories of Couples Married 1750-1899

Publication Abstract

Knodel, John E., and C. Wilson. 1981. "The Secular Increase in Fecundity in German Village Populations: An Analysis of Reproductive Histories of Couples Married 1750-1899." Population Studies, 35(1): 53-84.

An examination of evidence from reproductive histories of couples married between 1750 and 1899 in a sample of 14 German villages strongly suggests that fecundity, as defined by the underlying level of natural fertility, significantly increased between the end of the eighteenth and the onset of the twentieth century. An examination of the separate components which led to the increased fecundity are clearest with respect to an increase in fecundability. The evidence, although not entirely consistent, was also suggestive of a reduction in the non-susceptible period following birth. Little change appears to have occurred in terms of primary sterility. One factor which may have been related to the observed changes in fecundity is a marked decrease in the degree of seasonality of births during the same period. Evidence from other family reconstitution studies for German villages generally confirms the rise in underlying natural fertility observed for our sample. The extent to which these findings are representative of other parts of Europe is an intriguing topic for future research.

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