The Impact of Multiple Births on Fertility and Family Support in the Early 20th-Century

George Alter, University of Michigan
J. David Hacker, University of Minnesota

Multiple births strain the resources of mothers and families in ways that should highlight preferences for family size, birth spacing, and support from kin. Couples with surviving twins reach a target family size sooner than other couples, and they should be more likely to practice family limitation. Twins are also a greater burden on both the mother’s time and health, which may lead to postponing the next birth even among couples who want additional children. Other kin, especially grandmothers, may play an important role in easing the burden on mothers after multiple births. We propose to examine these hypotheses by analyzing families with twins in the US censuses of 1900 and 1910. Multiple births are less than two percent of all births, but the full count censuses of these years provide enough cases for our analysis. We will use event history methods (Kaplan-Meier curves, Cure Models) to compare birth intervals following a twin birth to women with singleton births to find evidence of increased family limitation and birth spacing following twin births. Household composition at the time of the census will be examined for evidence that families with twins were more likely to include grandmothers or other female kin. We will also ask whether grandmothers were a substitute for family limitation and birth spacing.

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 Presented in Session 95. Big Data in Historical Research II