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, Revised in July 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 that ideas about family planning played in this transition. We begin by documenting a link between the famous Bradlaugh-Besant trial that took place in England in 1877, which revolved around the morality of family planning, and the sharp decline in fertility that took place in Britain beginning in that year. We then show that similar declines are observed among populations living outside of Britain but with strong cultural and linguistic links to Britain. Our findings highlight the importance of changing social norms in the historical fertility transition and provide novel evidence showing that cultural and linguistic ties can play an important role in rapidly transmitting social change around the world.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25752

 
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