Comparing Historical and Contemporary Fertility Transitions: A Birth Interval Approach

George Alter, University of Michigan

In a widely cited article, Knodel and van de Walle attributed the European fertility transition to the emergence of "stopping" behavior (terminating childbearing before the end of the end of a woman's reproductive years) and suggested that this model was being repeated in other regions. The prevalence of "stopping" has become especially important for understanding fertility trends in Africa, where some observers see increasing use of modern contraception to increase the spacing between births. This paper uses a regression technique, the “Cure Model,” that simultaneously estimates stopping and spacing in fertility histories. Data are drawn from German village genealogies, KAP surveys of Taiwan, and several African DHS surveys. The German and Taiwanese data largely confirm Knodel and van de Walle's description, but stopping appears at very low family sizes more rapidly than they expected. The German data also show an increase in birth spacing after 1910, more than 30 years after the fertility transition began. Evidence of stopping is much more difficult to find in the African case studies, but several show that spacing between births did increase.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 111. Fertility Change, Timing, and Marriage