Fertility Decline in the United States, 1850–1940: New Evidence From Complete-Count Datasets

J. David Hacker , University of Minnesota
Evan Roberts, University of Minnesota

Total fertility in the United States fell from 7.0 in 1835, one of the highest rates in the world, to 2.1 in 1935, one of the lowest. This paper leverages the analytical power of new IPUMS complete-count microdata databases of 1850, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940 censuses to reexamine the U.S. fertility transition. The combined dataset includes nearly 700 million individuals spanning the beginning of the decline in the middle of the nineteenth century to its temporary end with the baby boom in the late 1930s. We model couples’ recent fertility (number of own children under age 5) in each census using a rich and consistent set of independent variables to evaluate the role of changing factors in the fertility transition and to decompose their contribution over time. We include measures often neglected by demographers including kin availability, parental religiosity, detailed nativity, and generation.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 126. Contemporary and Historical Fertility Transitions