NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Fertility in New York State in the Civil War Era

Michael R. Haines, Avery M. Guest

NBER Working Paper No. 16135
Issued in June 2010
NBER Program(s):   DAE

This paper analyzes a five percent systematic sample of households from the manuscripts of the New York State Census of 1865, the first in the United States to ask a question on children ever born. The sample of seven counties (Allegany, Dutchess, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Steuben, Tompkins, and Warren) was selected to provide a diversity of locations, settlement dates, and types of agricultural economy. The parity data indicate a strong decline in marital fertility during the first part of the 19th Century; little evidence of fertility control within marriage is found for the oldest women in the sample, but analysis of parity progression ratios indicates that control had emerged by the midpoint of the 19th Century. Fertility decline was initially most evident in the urban, more economically developed areas, but eventual levels were equal in the urban and rural parts of the sample. While a marital fertility transition occurred in 19th Century New York, many couples continued to have quite high levels of fertility, indicating the difficulty that many couples probably faced in controlling their reproduction.

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