Stop! Go! What Can We Learn about Family Planning from Birth Timing in Settler South Africa, 1800-1910?

Jeanne Cilliers, Lund University
Martine Mariotti, Australian National University

The reproductive behaviour of couples during a fertility transition is by definition different to generations that have gone before. The most common techniques thought to have been enacted by couples seeking to limit fertility are earlier stopping and increased spacing. During the western fertility transition that began in the second half of the nineteenth century, these two methods were found to have occurred together. Less is known about these strategies in settler communities despite having a transitioned at much the same time as those in Europe. Our country-wide dataset of birth histories of white South African women from 1800 - 1910 allows us to contribute to the evidence on settler fertility transitions as well as to compare settler reproductive behaviour to that in Europe. We examine settler families use of birth spacing and stopping strategies to implement the fertility transition that began in the 1870s. We draw primarily on three techniques that are now increasingly common in the literature. We use a Cox-proportional hazards model to test for evidence of changes to starting behaviour. To test for evidence of stopping we use a logit model regressing the probability of the birth interval being the final birth interval on a series of both supply and demand side characteristics. Finally, we use cure models, to test for stopping and spacing simultaneously. We show that settler couples during the fertility transition used both stopping and spacing to control the family size.

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