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Deliberate control in a natural fertility population: southern Sweden 1766-1865

Tommy Bengtsson, Lund University
Martin Dribe, Lund University

This paper analyses fertility control in a rural population characterized by natural fertility, using survival analysis on a longitudinal dataset at the individual level. Non-parity specific control is measured through the fertility response to short-term economic stress over a period of two years. Landless and semi-landless families responded strongly to short-term economic stress stemming from changes in food prices. The response, both to moderately and large changes in food prices, was strongest within six months after the prices changed in the fall which points the conclusion that the response was deliberate. People foresaw bad times and planned their fertility accordingly. The result highlights the importance of deliberate, but non-parity specific, control of the timing of childbirth before the fertility transition, in order to reduce the negative impacts of short-term economic stress.

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Presented in Session 161: Fertility control in history