The Decline of Belgian Fertility, 1800-1970

The Decline of Belgian Fertility, 1800-1970

Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 280
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    The Decline of Belgian Fertility, 1800-1970
    Book Description:

    Fertility in Belgium declined early and remained low compared with that in other European countries. For this reason, and because of the nation's heterogeneity, study of its demographic transition illuminates the relationship between fertility behavior and socioeconomic development. Professor Lesthaeghe first describes the Belgian experience in a way that permits direct comparison with that of other European nations. He then tests the several explanatory hypotheses for the European fertility decline against his data.

    Belgium's heterogeneity in the nineteenth-century and in the first half of the twentieth was economic, social, and cultural. Some areas of the country underwent industrialization as early as 1800-1830, while others shifted away from agriculture and artisanal modes of production only between 1880 and 1910. Between 1890 and 1900, regional fertility levels differed drastically, as did regional infant mortality rates and life expectancies at birth. In addition, wide variation occurred in the process of secularization, linguistic characteristics, demographic trends, and other cultural indicators. By describing and analyzing these data in relation to Belgium's fertility decline, Professor Lesthaeghe makes a major contribution to the theory of the demographic transition that occurred throughout Europe.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7003-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Ansley J. Coale

    One of the best known generalizations about human populations is that the birth rate tends to fall as a population experiences the set of changes known as industrialization, modernization, or social and economic development. The first statements of this generalization (which describes one-half of the so-called demographic transition) were based on observation of what happened in a few European countries in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By today, the fertility of every national population of Europe is very much lower—in almost every instance at least 50 percent lower—than it was no more than a few generations ago....

  6. Preface
    (pp. xix-2)
    Ron Lesthaeghe
  7. Chapter 1: Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    In the past two centuries, the population of virtually every European region has experienced an unprecedented reduction in mortality and fertility with the average duration of life substantially increasing, and the average number of children born per woman markedly declining. As a result, changes have also occurred in both the growth rate and age composition of the population. This set of phenomena has often been labeled “the demographic transition.” The changes in the vital rates have not provoked much discussion since these are facts that can be documented with little ambiguity by available statistics. However, the reason for the change...

  8. Chapter 2: The Social and Economic Modernization
    (pp. 15-45)

    This chapter on Belgian social and economic development in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is meant to give a succinct picture of the background variables that have conditioned the decline in marital fertility and the development of the present marriage pattern. The story of the demographic transition cannot be taken out of its general context in any case and certainly not in this particular one. Hence, a summary of the most important social and economic trends is essential. Their relevance with respect to the demographic change will become apparent in the following chapters.

    Belgium was the first country on...

  9. Chapter 3: The Evolution of Nuptiality
    (pp. 46-94)

    Important demographic changes paralleled the economic and social transformations that occurred within Belgium in the second half of the nineteenth century. One of these demographic changes was a fundamental alteration in marriage patterns. Data from the 1846 and 1856 censuses indicate that the mean age at marriage was 28.6 years for women and 30.5 years for men; in the 1960s figures for both sexes are approximately six years younger. In the middle of the nineteenth century, three-quarters of the men between 25 and 30 years of age were still single; in 1970, more than three-quarters were married. In the 1850s...

  10. Chapter 4: The Transition of Marital, Illegitimate, and General Fertility
    (pp. 95-141)

    Changes in marriage patterns were by no means the only demographic transformation occurring in the second half of the nineteenth century. Shortly after 1850, we find the first indications that couples were beginning to control their fertility within marriage.

    This evolution will be studied in this chapter. We will examine marital fertility characteristics when fertility control is not a widespread phenomenon. This leads us to the concept of “natural fertility” and to the extent and nature of contraceptive practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Then, a short comparison of the marital fertility transition in Belgium and its neighboring countries...

  11. Chapter 5: Factors Associated with the Fertility Decline—A First Approach
    (pp. 142-195)

    In 1934, the French demographer A. Landry started his volume on the “demographic revolution” with the following question: “If, generally speaking, reproduction remained uncontrolled for centuries, why did it change? … Why did fertility change in France after a certain point in time and why did this change occur at different moments in other countries?” (A. Landry, 1934, p. 37). For the first time the question was clearly defined; it has been a central problem of modern demography ever since.

    In this chapter we shall take up Landry’s question literally and apply it to the history of fertility in Belgium....

  12. Chapter 6: Factors Associated with the Fertility Decline—Multivariate Analyses
    (pp. 196-220)

    In the previous chapter we described the various elements of socioeconomic change that might have been responsible for the fertility transition in Belgium, and developed a short theoretical framework. Then we translated some of this into a more readily testable set of simple propositions by operationalizing some concepts and by adding new variables that seemed relevant in the Belgian context. So far, each independent variable has been related to the fertility measures without introducing more than two variables at a time. This elementary approach is necessary in order to explore the nature of the independent variables in greater depth; but,...

  13. Chapter 7: Final Considerations
    (pp. 221-232)

    The statistical and qualitative evidence presented in the preceding chapters calls for a final reappraisal of the findings. In such an appraisal we will consider the features of the Belgian experience more cohesively.

    In the middle of the nineteenth century the Belgian demographic situation showed the following characteristics: high mortality and noncontrolled marital fertility, late and nonuniversal marriage, and negligible illegitimate fertility.. There is some evidence that mortality was considerably lower in certain parts of Wallonia, that nuptiality restrictions were more severe in Flanders, and also that marital fertility may have been sligthly higher in Flanders than in Wallonia. It...

  14. Appendix: The Quality of the Demographic Data
    (pp. 233-252)
  15. Index
    (pp. 253-259)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 260-263)