NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Censorship, Family Planning, and the Historical Fertility Transition

Brian Beach, W. Walker Hanlon

NBER Working Paper No. 25752
Issued in April 2019
NBER Program(s):Children, Development of the American Economy, Development Economics

The historical fertility transition is one of the most important events in economic history. This study provides new evidence on the role of information and social norms in this transition. We begin by documenting a causal relationship between the public release of information on the morality of engaging in family planning that resulted from the famous Bradlaugh-Besant trial of 1877 and Britain's subsequent fertility decline. We then show that the release of this information had nearly simultaneous effects among British-origin populations abroad, in Canada, South Africa, Australia and the United States. These findings highlight the importance of information and changing social norms in the historical fertility transition, as well as the role that cultural and linguistic ties played in transmitting these changes around the world.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25752

 
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