Demographic Transition in Europe 
Demographic Transition in Europe
by Yale / Robert Wyman
Video Lecture 9 of 24
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Date Added: November 8, 2009

Lecture Description


Prior to the Demographic Transition, fertility in northwestern Europe was controlled by limiting marriage. Marriage was regulated by landowners and the churches, and was not allowed unless a man had accumulated the resources necessary to support a family. Long periods of being landless, a servant, or an apprentice, precluded marriage. Once married, there was no control of fertility. But, only about half of adults were married at any given time, so fertility was about half of what it might have been. Eventually, contraception was accepted and fertility within marriage fell. Society no longer needed to control marriage so tightly and marriage rates rose dramatically. The options of marriage, sex and childbearing passed from community control to individual control. The fertility decline occurred very rapidly in Europe, mostly between 1870 and 1930. It has been difficult to prove a socioeconomic basis for the decline. The largest study, The Princeton European Fertility Project, argued that cultural transmission of new social norms was crucial. The Demographic Transition encompassed a ten-fold increase in population and a three-fold increase in life expectancy. It drastically changed the human experience of life.



Reading assignment:

Coale Ansley and Susan Watkins. The Decline of Fertility in Europe: The Revised Proceedings of a Conference on the Princeton European Fertility Project, pp. 38 and 420-449




Transcript



February 12, 2009



Professor Robert Wyman: We're discussing the fertility transition and we've talked that prior to the fertility transition there was control of fertility, but it was at a very high level. In different parts of the world we talked in very general terms about it. I want to just describe a little bit about what the story was in Europe, exactly how fertility was controlled. One of the main reasons, I mentioned this before, but didn't really describe it, is control of marriage. That the number of people that were allowed to, and in some sense, get married changed with economic conditions and agricultural conditions.



You can see that very clearly wherever you get statistics from the period. As you know, the first year of the Black Death was 1347-1348, and huge numbers of people died and their land was immediately taken over by someone else. Immediately these new landowners got married. There was an enormous burst of marriage. Like in one small French village there had been 10 to 12 marriages a year in the preceding decade. In 1349, the first year after that phase of the plague passed it went from 10 to 12, to 86 marriages, an enormous thing.



What was going on is there was--before the Black Death when Europe was crowded for its system there was a huge pool of unmarried individuals who really wanted to get married, but did not have any land on which to support themselves or a family and the opening of the land allows marriage to take place. Then not only did they get married right away, but the women got pregnant immediately, and one contemporary observer wrote, "There are pregnant women wherever you look." This is 1349. Up--this fertility rate was a flexible system that moved up and down according to economic and demographic conditions.



In England, there's data from the 1550s and later, the gross reproduction rate, that's the number of women--there are a certain number of women in one generation how many female children do they produce? In the 1550s it was 2.8, so one will reproduce a woman, the gross reproduction rate will be one, but they were producing 2.8. A century later it drops down to 1.8 and that's the 1650s, and by 1880s it rises again to over three, so there's enormous range between one, close to one, less than two, just reproducing themselves getting into this dangerous thing where--with the very high death rates, where the whole society at that rate won't continue--and a factor of three women which will do just fine.



You can see the same thing at the age of marriage, not only the numbers of marriage of course but the age of marriage. During the early 1800s remember that was a time when the American food is there, European population was rising, strong as a high birth rate so land hunger became--land--there was no extra land available so marriage became later and later, and eventually reached 23 to 28 for females and even older than that for males. By that time probably the average lifespan was 35, it had improved some, but if you're fertile at say 15 and you don't marry until 28, that's a huge chunk of your reproductive life where you're not reproducing, that reduces the birth rate and keeps the population in check.



However, once in marriage, the children just flowed. There was no--apparently no control within marriage whatsoever. In 300 years--all the data that we have says that in 300 years in Europe there was no control of fertility within marriage, all the control, all the social control of population was in how many people got married, what they called the nuptiality; the fraction of people that got married was the total mechanism of social control. There's of course external control by disease, by famines because some plague of the plants, and then there were individual controls which we've talked about infanticide and so forth. In terms of social controls, the northwestern--the Northern Europeans, especially northwestern European model was controlled marriage and it was quite effective.



These marriage controls didn't just happen automatically, people just didn't sort of have a rational sense that said, 'Oh I can't get married.' There was really--the controls were forced upon them. Most land was owned by some landowner and the man was given a plot of land which he could work. It was the size so that one individual could work this plot of land. He starts having children. Well the landlord knows that only one son is needed to farm that land, and the father knows he can only give that land to one son, so there's tremendous pressure if you have extra children they can't stay at home. You'll see when we talk about China a very different model. He can't stay at home, those people are forced off to the cities, and in the cities are very dangerous and disease ridden places, so they just die in the cities, and the cities are growing this time but very high death rates still in the cities. About one-third, each generation had to be replenished as I've mentioned to you, but about one-third in the cities.



The landlord of course didn't want these extra children around because he would have more and more people to feed with the same amount of land therefore the same amount of production. You had to get the landlord's permission in order to get married and if you didn't--if he didn't have extra land for you, you couldn't get married. Of course officially it wasn't the landlord but it was the local parish church that you had to get married in, but guess who hired the parish minister or priest? The local landlord, and the whole structure of churches almost everywhere is that they are very much either controlled by or mutual support of the gentry, the rich people and the religious authorities intermix. They weren't allowed to get married either by the landlord or by the church. It was very--you had to post what they called banns so everybody knew there was a marriage, and of course the landlord would notice, and so it was impossible to do anything about that.



Another mechanism was going off and becoming a servant that was one of the very standard kinds of things. They would leave home very young become a servant and--males and females both servants in the houses, you've all seen these Victorian movies and earlier movies, how many servants they have. Of course they were never allowed to get married, not allowed to have sex, no boyfriend, no girlfriend, none of that was allowed--very, very strict rules on house servants and house servants were a very large faction of the young people--of everybody in, say, England.



Then those that didn't become servants would go off and become an apprentice. One son stays at home, the others go off and become apprentices, and apprenticeship was a very long period of time in which they had to learn the skills and get some sort of resources so that they could buy the equipment and rent the shop and set up eventually on their own, or wait until the master died and then inherit the master's place.



The end result of all this is that it took many, many years to establish a sufficient economic base so that the society would allow you to get married. Many people never got married; I'll show you a little bit later what the marriage rates actually were in Europe during this period, and its surprisingly low. The culture adapts to this. What do all these unmarried men and women do? We have the spinster woman; we have the confirmed bachelor, again you've seen men in much British comedy and British movies about--always has characters in it where some confirmed bachelor, he's just not getting married. Presumably a fair amount of the homosexuality that was present, especially in the British upper classes is due to this whole tradition that a lot of males are not going to get married, and then they do something with their sexual impulse. Of course that's not proven; we don't really understand the basis of homosexuality.



Females were also, like the males, forced off the land, if they were not the wife of the one son that inherited the land, they had to go somewhere else so they went to the cities where there were not jobs, especially not jobs for women so they become sort of a floating population, very largely prostitutes--huge explosion of prostitution at this time both because of the excess women that are trying to stay alive that have migrated into the cities, and there's all these bachelors there having some sort of job that could pay for their services. Of course you know that babies that resulted from any of these situations were very often just abandoned and left to die.



This control of marriage, that marriage was the control, the social control on population lasted well into the 1800s, well into and possibly even through the Victorian era. These mechanisms together reduced the north European birthrate, and especially in England, to about 50% of what it otherwise could have been. Remember we did calculations of how many children one can have, and then there's always examples much to the high end of that. But in England taking a reasonable number, these controls of marriage cut the birthrate in half.



What did it feel like to the people involved in this? I suspect a fair number of you have heard this quote. It's a letter from a woman to her uncle. Don't shout out but raise your hand if you know it. "I think dearest uncle that you cannot really wish me to be the mother of a numerous family, for I think you will see the great inconvenience in a large family would be the hardship to myself. Men never think what a hard task it is for us women to go through this pregnancy very often."



Have you heard this? No, no one's heard this letter, it's very famous. This is a woman in this situation. She's married, and therefore she's having children one after the other with no kind of control, and she's complaining, 'this is hard on me and why don't you men ever think how hard this is on me?' What social class, is this a poor woman, middle class woman, upper class woman? Having all this--no ideas; it's Queen Victoria. Here's by far the richest woman in the world, has all the help, all the money, all the food, and, even for her, it's a burden and she probably doesn't have to do much of the burden except handle the pregnancy and childbearing, and if she perceives it as a burden, then can you imagine what the common woman thinks of it. By the way, it's Queen Victoria to her uncle who is King Leopold of Belgium, you've heard this before.



When sexuality itself since--a lot of problems with sexuality at that time. You've been reading some stuff about it, and one of the things is that men, aside from the childbirth aspect of it that women were of course always worried that if they had sex they would get pregnant and often they didn't--usually they did not want to get pregnant, but also the men were not very skilled. They either did not know how to pleasure a woman, they didn't want to, or they thought it was very improper to even try to pleasure a woman. Here's another quote from Lady Alice Huntington--Hillingdon--1857, she died only in 1940 so we're really coming up to fairly recent kinds of times, and presumably, this was written in her journal in 1912.



No one can find that journal so they don't know the state of--how apocryphal this is, but this is a quote that again you've probably heard, at least part of it. "I am happy now that George," her husband, "calls on my bedchamber less frequently then of old. As it is, I now endure but two calls a week and, when I hear his steps outside my door, I lie down upon my bed, close my eyes, open my legs and think of England." Sometimes the quote is, "think of Victoria," but apparently think of England is the proper--again we're not talking about some poor woman with a brutal husband, as in some Oliver Twist movies, this is a very high status lady.



How did this change and who was arrayed against this? People, women especially, were not happy with the situation. Young men of course wanted to get married, couldn't until they were old, and we've talked about that situation in Africa where the bride price is very high, the old men control the bride price, they don't allow the young men to get married until there's almost a revolution. This is an aside, but with respect to the bride price, we hear a lot about older men marrying or having sex with younger women. In the West it's one of the things we sort of complain about, about other cultures that this great disparity in age--an older man with a younger woman.



We tend to blame the man who's getting married, but if you think of it from the point of view of their society, that man has been under the control of even older guys, the really powerful guys, and so he's been abused and not allowed to get married until he's old. The women of his age are already married to the much older guys so this is his only option. Again, within a society these things all intermingle and form a pattern, not necessarily a good pattern, not necessarily a pattern that the people like, but it is a tight web.



Coming back to Europe, there was this unfortunate situation where young men weren't allowed to get married, young women weren't allowed to get married, once you're in marriage the sexual mores were so straight jacketed that it was not pleasurable for most of the women apparently, and who knows what the men were using, the Victorian pornography during this period is lots of mistresses, lots of prostitution and lots of being whipped. They loved to get punished themselves, which is a surprising preponderance of masochistic sexuality in the Victorian literature of that time. At least from our point of view, sexuality was a mess.



So some people tried to change this, of course there's always pioneers, and in England one of the pioneers was a man and a woman, Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant. In 1877 family planning was--contraception was coming into possibility in England and so they distributed--printed and distributed what we would now consider a very mild pamphlet about birth control called, The Fruits of Philosophy. It was very abstract and philosophical. Of course what happened to them? Arrested, indicted, and the official indictment accused them of 'inciting and encouraging the subjects of the Queen to indecent, obscene, unnatural, and immoral practices, and to bring them,' the citizens of the Queen, the subjects of the Queen, 'to a state of wickedness, lewdness, and debauchery.' This is because they were saying that--well there's these things called condoms around and why don't you use them.



This trial was very interesting in that in a culture there's certain things you can't talk about. If something is culturally forbidden, like almost anything to do with sex in marriage, you just couldn't talk about it. Now here's this big trial in London, very famous, all the newspapers are carrying it, and guess what everybody learns about? Birth control; and a very big thing and some scholars, some historians attribute--there's just the period when the use of birth control is increasing tremendously in England, -- and that this trial popularized it.



What did we have something similar a few years ago in America with our President? Bill Clinton and oral sex, are you all too young to--that was a taboo topic, you could not discuss it and then the right wing, the conservatives who were opposed to this kind of free sexual activity publicized it and publicized, and publicized it until every teenager in America knew about oral sex and now the data is that oral sex has just gone exponentially down into the high schools and even junior high schools. I could tell you stories about that, but I won't.



With all this moralizing about it that the religious leaders, the political leaders, the medical doctors said it was bad for you, you've read some of that in your reading, everybody is--they were terrorized in a sense. There was an intellectual terrorization of the people, they feared legal prosecution. Most of these things were illegal, to buy things, to use things, to write about them, to publish them. They were told that they would get physical injury. You may have heard that masturbation will make you blind and that--I don't know if any of your parents said that but I heard it in my time. Mental injury, if it doesn't make you blind, it'll make you crazy, and deep moral reservations and just straight aesthetic distaste that when the society frowns on something we sort of have incorporated a kind of revulsion to anything which society considers disgusting, and contraceptives themselves were considered repulsive, unnatural, only for prostitutes, that kind of thing.



Of course, at that time, almost--a lot of people were starting to do it, but since you couldn't talk about it publicly, no one knew what everyone else was doing so they thought they had to take this great leap themselves in defiance of everything that their culture is telling them. How did it--what happened an individual's starting to think about these things. We have some interesting--a lot of interesting stuff referred to in the reading. Some of this in your reading is letters to various pioneers, Margaret Sanger or ho was it in England the--I'm blocking on the name of the clinic in England [Marie Stopes]. We have letters from women sort of begging information on how to keep from getting pregnant again.



A lot of it is not with any official organizations, just women talking to women, and some of it can be relaxed at a little bit later stage. There's a series of nice interviews from the 1920s and 1930s with elderly Italian and Jewish women in the United States. They talked to each other about technique, because techniques is one of the things, and this interview is from an Italian American woman born in the U.S. in 1920, recent immigrant parents, and the conversation took place in the late 1930s.



She works in a hair dressing salon and she gets engaged, and of course all her coworkers know about it, and so an interviewer--an anthropologist--a sociologist--goes in and starts asking her about it. Apparently prior to this little quote they had brought up the topic of birth control so the interviewer says, "How did you learn about condoms?" Nina: "One of my customers said, 'I really hope you don't get pregnant, let him wear a raincoat.' So I started wondering, I'm thinking, I'm working and my mind just can't work out what a raincoat is." Then Mary White who worked for me said, "Baby what's on your mind? I said, "Mrs. Jacobs said a funny thing to me, she said my ring was lovely," her marriage ring, "but she hoped I didn't start a family and he should wear a raincoat. But I can't ask Johnny to wear a raincoat to bed." This Mary White laughed and laughed and says, "She means he's to wear a condom." "What is it?" Nina said.



And then she got told and got enlightened in this and it's that kind of conversation where individual people of not very high class are learning that it's okay to buck the trend and even the basic information they previously don't have. It doesn't always work out that, when these discussions take place, that the participants do take on the new behavior, sometimes they don't want to do that.



Gossip--most conversation by humans is gossip and there's very good studies showing this. We know that from our chimps days we're a very social species, that status is so terribly important and status translates to social acceptability, so the purpose of gossip is to find out what the limits of social acceptability are. Gossip is almost exclusively about someone who has stepped over what was perceived to be the limit and either gotten away with it or not gotten away with it, or something that's now just inside the limit. A large fraction of gossip is to see what is socially acceptable in my circle, and sometimes like we've seen here, the use of condoms becomes socially acceptable as a result of discussions like this. Sometimes it--at least this individual at this time it doesn't become acceptable.



Where is this other quote that I'm looking for? This is another two women, and the interviewer asks, "How did your friends have abortions?" The issue of abortions came up and as you probably have read or will read, abortions at this time were very, very common, all illegal, but very common. "Peggy, I'm trying to think what they would take because they'd tell me, a lot of them would have a friend who would put something up there that would bring on their period." The interviewer, "A knitting needle?" Peggy, "No not a knitting needle, some kind of fluid, like hot boiling water or salt water, they would ruin their insides, they would say, 'Oh Peggy don't you do that.' Oh no I would never do that, that's my husband, it's the man who takes care." It's interesting that in this particular case it's usually the woman's responsibility in most cases, but in this case whatever was going on in the marriage she perceived it as the husband's case, and in further discussion that it was his responsibility to use a condom all the time.



The reason given by the woman is not any moral consideration, no life--that's not the consideration, but it's a medical thing, it's just at that time the methods since it was illegal, and if you didn't--even if you went to a practitioner it was very, very dangerous but the kinds of things that women actually used on themselves were so incredibly dangerous, so the reason she's not having an abortion is that she doesn't want to ruin herself in the medical sort of way. You take this same woman, transpose her 50 years later, where now abortion is safe and possibly legal, this same woman may have a very different attitude toward, but of course we don't know anything about that.



The point of this--series of stories is a big change in culture, that prior--every society has to control population in some way and we've talked about the physical constraints, the disease and famines, we've talked about the social controls like not being able to get married, but up until--in Europe up until very recently there was no individual control. Individuals themselves did not have the cultural freedom to make these kinds of decisions. Once married, procreation just keeps going one after the other until either someone dies or the woman becomes infertile.



Now we're seeing a transition where individuals can start deciding for themselves, a very big change in the extension of agency that what a person thinks they can control about their lives. Here is an elderly Jewish woman, who was talking about her mother and said the way the neighbors now start controlling this, so the mother who did not use any kind of fertility control, her friends and relatives would sort of get on her case but mild, chided her mildly. When she would get pregnant they would say, 'Oh!, Esther not another belly,' and so at this time friends, relatives, neighbors start imposing a new culture on you. There's some aspects of freedom that the individual now gets to choose but the culture comes on and now at least starts to import a new cultural norm on you.



In Sicily, reputed to have very high, actually having high fertility rates, but at some point they go through their transition and this is in 1980--in the 1980s, very late, and this is a report of woman who's one of the few remaining peasants in this village. Sicily, like all the rest of the world, is changing and growing up. She reported that these families that still had child after child, after child, their neighbors called them animals. And this is Sicilian to Sicilian.



Here's another example of this, a Jewish immigrant in the U.S. writing to her mother back in Poland. This is a lovely letter. "Here in America, it is the custom that if a woman wants to she has a baby, and if she does not want to have any, she doesn't. David's wife, I don't know if that's a brother or something, "David's wife says that she will have a baby every four years. I think it is good to have one every three years, and so after three years I shall have another. It is terrible that at home women suffer only hardships in childbearing." Home being Poland in this case.



It's really interesting that the technology is not of interest to her. She doesn't--in this case talk about the wonderful new contraceptives that they have in America which of course they would not have had in Poland. Nor about the availability of--the knowledge about it, the availability of it, the technology of it, she doesn't talk about economics. She doesn't say, 'Oh we can't afford it or we can afford,' any of that sort of stuff. She talks about what to her is this startling new idea that's under her control, that she can choose herself what to do, and someone else can make a different kind of a choice. What she's exuberant about is the lack of cultural constraints; she's now a free individual to navigate the world as she sees it in herself.



Also in all these discussions men are rarely mentioned, it really is sort of women's decision here, and the women are working it out, and again in most of these things--well in a lot of these things sometimes it is the man, 'no matter what I say he won't stay away from me,' but once the contraception comes in then men want the sex and you get a lot of conflict if they're using contraception, but once contraception comes in it seems to be much easier to manage the females. You have read some of this in your readings.



Until the demographic--so now I'm going to go back to talking about marriage--until the demographic revolution as I said, the marriages rates are controlled by the community not the individual. Let's look at the marriage rates here if I can find them without--this is Belgium and various provinces in Belgium, and Belgium as you know is a totally Catholic country, and we will talk a little bit more about Belgium in a minute. Here are the dates from before the transition to 1970, very recent. This is the marital index, what fraction got married and look at that 40%, only 40% of people got married in that year--that ever married, so more than half of people are not getting married.



We think of the old days as everybody had to get married. No. As time goes on, as the fertility transition takes place as people are having fewer and fewer children within marriage, the marriage rate goes up drastically until it's 70%, 75%, which is kind of a modern rate. The same thing, this is another set of provinces, another set of provinces, there's Antwerp, the big cities, Luxemburg which--a lot of provinces in Belgium.



A very interesting thing is that, again keeping in mind that societies have to control their fertility. If you're controlling marriage, if you don't have any mechanism of contraception then when people get married they're going to have babies boom, boom, boom, boom so you have to control one method, you have to control the number of marriages, so you control it extremely, 40% marriages.



In China--we're going to talk about China later--do you know what the rate of--the Americans complain and Chinese too to some degree about the one child policy and the excess of female -- of males--that there aren't enough girls to get married and this is going to cause incredible social disruption. You know what the rate--what the absence of females is there? At maximum like 15% or 18% and so nothing like--here 60% of people aren't getting married. The Chinese situation is still above--if all the males--if all the females get married something like 85% of men can get married. If you compare China and Europe, it's again, it's not necessarily a reality based thing this worry about the male/female ratio.



This is a map of Europe, and the whole of Europe including Russia, and this is 1870 and it was 1870 Europe, this was from the Princeton project and every one of these little things is a province of Europe, and every one these provinces they've collected data on everything under the sun for, and this is the marriage rate. Look here, the red is less than 30% and you have an occasional place, northern Scotland, I think is--it's not Bulgaria, Bulgaria is more over here, I can't tell from the map but it's a province in the south here. [It is a province of Austria.]



Look at the red here, that's under 40% of people are getting married and then some of the lighter stuff you get into the 40% to 50%. The same true through middle Europe: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Finland. All through here they're all in the 50% and less, less than 50% of people are getting married. 1870--a little bit in Spain you get up into a more reasonable range and you have to go all the way out to the Caspian Sea, the border of the Caspian Sea to find people getting married, 80% of the people getting married, a number that we consider something sort of reasonable for our--not now because marriage rate is falling but that was the general preconception of Westerners growing up in our society is that from time immemorial almost everybody got married, but it's not the case. The Eastern Europe, which was in a rather different mold, had a higher marriage rate.



Now you look at this, this is 1870 and you come up to after the fertility transition and look what happens, everybody's gone bluish. Marriage has just shot up all over Europe, including--which is actually what you've got left; these are sort of doing the reverse, but Western Europe where we have lots of lots of good data and understanding there's almost nothing pink left.



Guess now who has the lowest marriage rate? Ireland. What's special about Ireland at this time? Catholic and no contraception so they're not allowed to get married. They're back in the 30%, 40% and that's sort of very characteristic of the sociology of Ireland. That the men are very close to their mother and get married either very late or don't get married at all. Whereas England, their Protestant neighbor, sharing all kinds of other cultural aspects is up there in the 70% to 75% of marriage, so that's one of the really amazing kinds of things that happened that basically the spread of marriage; that in Europe--different story in other parts of the world that--because of the need to control total population in the old days people just weren't allowed to get married because once they were in marriage they weren't allowed to use contraception.



Once you flip that equation and open up to individual decision, there's no requirement--that in all of this there's no requirement to use contraception but families naturally want to have fewer children then they would have naturally and so fertility in a family declines. The social control of marriage is not needed anymore and the marriage rate goes up very high. Of course along with marriage that--I call this a democratization effect, marriage gets democratized and of course sex gets democratized.



Prior to this, all these people that aren't married either have no sex, or they have homosexual sex, they go to prostitutes, I mean they--we don't know much about how much sex they had but they had some sort of sex, and that [lack of marital sex] was what society demanded of them. Normal marital sex was not allowed and [only] a small fraction were able to get married and have sex--so along with the democratization of marriage you also get the democratization of sex.



Let's look at some of the details of this happening. While I've got these pictures, these big maps are hard for the computer to calculate apparently.



This is some the contraceptives that were coming at this time. Some of these--there's several museums in the world that get all the contra--one is just stones, putting stones in the--other sort of various forms of blocking the canal to absorb the semen, and you put cotton or something in a little bag like this, put it in the vagina and--these all helped. This, I don't know exactly what that is, but again some blocking substance, then they could be made not only of vegetable matter, but of metal. There's a whole bunch of things called pessaries where the cap--a cap made out of porcelain or something is put over the cervix.



There are--this is a variety of condoms, including some fairly modern ones, but the older ones--this is an old way they were made--older ones looked like this and what do you think was--how they originally made condoms? The technology was borrowed from something else. What else comes very commonly purchased item come--sausages, exactly. What was--before there was plastics what was sausage casing made out of? Intestines, animal intestines, they can be made very thin because they're just a small barrier for absorption, very thin and so they were called skins and I don't know which of these things are which, but that was not a very difficult technology to make them out of skins.



Here are some more modern things, various kinds of IUDs, everything under the sun was tried, including the more modern. This is a very ancient technique. People at different times have believed that almost anything works as a contraceptive, this is a bone on a string, again placed inside, and heaven knows what the theory was why that would work. It might have just prevented the man from entering far enough or something, who knows. The string, like a modern IUD, whereas a string hangs out and you can pull it down. One of the problems with modern IUDs until recently, and the same problem here, you have a string and what does the string do? It's a route for bacteria to swim up so the strings are dangerous things.



Let me get back to the beginning of this a little bit. Now we've talked about individuals sort of in a variety of ways how this happened to individuals and cultural things. Here--you didn't--this wasn't in your reading this particular graph. So here is a graph of the date, again Europe, the different countries of Europe and when--within marriage what their rate of fertility was within marriage, with actually 1.0 being the Hutterite level which is the maximum level people have achieved.



What do you make out of that? It's kind of a mess, right? You can see something, you can see France being lower already by 1860, we know it had its transition and you can't really see much else. One of the data that you read about, if you take those same graphs and now change their time thing and ask, well let's gather each graph at the point--there's a traditional level of fertility, eight or so children, and in each country it may be a little different somewhere between six and eight, and then at some point it starts to drop and when it's dropped by 10% is a critical stage, so the Princeton people argued, and so they've gathered--this is the years after reaching the 90%, so at this point in time all of these countries have dropped. These curves are gathered to put together the point where they reach 10% drop from their pre-transition level.



Then it makes more sense. Look at the way it falls down like crazy until it hits some sort of roughly a new plateau at about half or so of the earlier plateau, a little bit less than half. The amount of time here, this is zero years and it's all over maybe in 50 years, and if you look at any one place it's a much shorter period than that. Within a very--what Princeton decided a couple of things. One that's hard to figure out but there was, for some reason, various groups started their fertility decline and we'll talk about various theories of that, but once it became--whereas everyone else was horrified about whatever they say, it was rich people, it was outcast people. How did in--so it was upper class--the fertility decline happened first among upper class, among city class, among Jews, and so it's always some sort of a non-majority social group that starts social change.



What made the discussion of condoms legitimate? In America when I was in--you could not mention condom, no television discussion of it, news reports never mentioned it, and what is it that allowed condoms to be discussed in America? You know--AIDS epidemic, and where did the AIDS epidemic start in? Homosexuals, so a marginalized group starts something, it spreads into the culture. Where do our clothing fashions often come from? From the poorest kids often, I can see--go into the ghetto and see what the kids are wearing and six years later you guys are going to be wearing exactly what they're wearing, long baggy pants and so forth and showing various parts.



The idea is one, that something happens up here and there's a lot of discussion about that but once it becomes socially--the idea is that once it reaches that 10% level, it just falls down, fertility just falls down like a stone. In this period, up here you can get all kinds of economic levels, that different economic groups are having different fertility, different educational groups, difference between urban and rural, difference in whether they're agricultural or in an industry, and you can find all these differences, but once this fertility thing starts like this, everybody does it. What they call these differentials, these socio economic differentials just disappear and a farmer is just as likely to be limiting his fertility as a bourgeois person in the cities.



If you try to think of how rapidly the economic situation changes, or how rapidly does education increase, and you look at all the various variables, none of them increase with this kind of rapidity, none of them change with that kind of ability, infant mortality, almost anything you can measure, nothing goes with that kind of a rate. What goes with that kind of a rate? A fad, a fashion. If you look all around Europe, and this was in your reading, what you see is the date of the beginning of the decade. This is the decade where that 10% level was reached and what provinces are this? This is all France. Then there's a long delay, a surprisingly long delay, and boom all the rest of Europe then does it in basically--most of it's done between 1870 and 1930, it's almost all done.



This just sweeps through Europe, and again as I've showed you on the maps, it includes Russia, Eastern Europe, economically and educationally very underdeveloped kinds of places, and yet the fertility drops, this is all of Europe, nobody is left out. Again, it makes it difficult to put an economic or an educational, any of these other variables on it. What you have instead is, and one of these stories you read about in your reading--remember that each of these graduate students and post docs was put on a different country of Europe in the Princeton project. One had to do England, one had to do--and have the who did England is going to be guest lecturer here next week, next Thursday, he's not going to talk about that because you'll have had enough of that by then.



There was a guy who was assigned Spain; this guy is William Leisure, and this I think you read a little bit about. He gathered all this data, a huge amount of work in all the Spanish archives of every province from going way back to 1830 or something, whatever was there, he looked at. And he put it all together and he could not make any sense out of it whatsoever. This guy was going out of his mind and he took to drawing a map of fertility rates, sort of like those kinds of maps I just showed you, fertility rates at different points in time in the different provinces of Spain.



He showed it to everybody and apparently he was walking around campus one day and he saw a professor of Spanish Literature who he had met somewhere and he said he buttonholed the guy and showed him these graphs and said, 'I can't make any sense out of this,' and he told the professor what it was. The professor said, 'That's the linguistic regions of Spain.' As you know Spain had a variety of kingdoms, they were controlled by the Muslims, and then the Northern Christians kicked them out, but there's Castille and Navarra, and Aragon and all of these cultural things. And still the Basques consider themselves quite separate, the Catalans consider themselves separate, so Spain, to this day, has serious regional diversities.



What apparently Leisure had come up with unknowingly was a map of the linguistic boundaries of ancient medieval Spain and they still remained. The idea that he came up with, as well as is fairly obvious, is that people that could speak the same language, the same dialect, were of the common culture would talk to each other and that it was social spread what kept the province, a linguistic region uniform in its fertility practices was the cultural spread, but that was the cultural unit as well as the linguistic unit and it didn't cross boundaries.



Another more quantified example of that is Belgium and here is Belgium, in Belgium they speak two languages which are? French and Flemish, and Flemish is almost the same as? Dutch, which is almost the same as? German, so it's a big divide, it's a Germanic/Romance language divide. This is a big language divide and in Belgium here are the various provinces of Belgium, and these are the southern ones near--France is over here--so these are all French speaking and Holland is up there, and Germany is over here--these are the Flemish speaking provinces.



When you look at their fertility what happens is that--when you look at their fertility France is, as you've heard 100 times, starts the fertility transition, fertility drops there. It goes--it takes a fair amount of time but it goes first into French speaking Belgium and French speaking Belgium then conforms to the French norm. Then there's this language line and you compare across that line and nothing north of the line changes and it takes 60 years to cross that language line that I showed you. It takes 60 takes to cross the language barrier.



This guy Lesthaeghe, the guy who studied--who was assigned to Belgium, and he is Belgian himself, he said well what could be causing it, what are the differences between north/south aside from language? When he was doing it they didn't really come up with this--when he was originally--when he started it they didn't--hadn't understood this cultural difference and so he's looking at socioeconomic variables. And so he took villages across that boundary line there, and you take no more than five kilometers difference and he would take villages that were matched: the soil was kind of the same, the agricultural productivity was the same, and every kind of socioeconomic variable that he could find was not different across that line except fertility.



That the northern line just had an awful lot more children then south of the line, French speaking Flemish speaking and presumably eliminating all these socioeconomic variables by comparing these neighboring towns all across Belgium from east to west, all across this line he looked at these kinds of paired villages. Well he said what was doing it? Well there's--so they started thinking about cultural reasons, and at that time in Europe there were two--democracy was still fairly--real democracy was still fairly young but most everybody had the vote and there was a lot of discussion about who would control democracy, whether democracy was a good or bad thing, so the suffrage, the expanded kind of suffrage, they still had kings and all that, but the power was being eroded by parliaments and there were two sets of parties as really there still are in Europe.



One was the Catholic party, the conservative party called--the other was the socialist party's or the communist party's, and anybody know what they're called? The Social Democrats and there are a variety of names other party's--the Christian Demo--the parties that are still named Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. Like in Germany they pass the premiership back and forth between them. That was established at this time and it was considered a fairly good marker for what we call secularization that how much a person was still believing in the old morality, the old styled things was religious, they would usually vote for the Christian democrats.



People that had undergone some sort of a transition and now were buying socialist theory or worker solidarity theory, or believed in unions would vote the Democratic Socialist party. What he did, he said, 'okay let's look at each of the provinces again, this is a smaller grouping then province and see what their vote is.' There's the Catholic party, and this is the percentage of non-Catholic party, and then he just compared this with how much their fertility had declined, again, always within marriage.



It turns out the more non-Catholic they are the greater the decline in fertility. It's kind of a backwards thing, and very nice line of proportionality. This is an exact proportionality and the points stick really very close to that line; it's not hard to see what that line is, and so people--what became clear is that culturally people that were voting for the Catholic party and therefore were in the older mode of culture did not drop their fertility very much. People who were voting the socialist, the left wing, liberal whatever you want to call it, had dropped their fertility by 60% to 80%, a huge drop in fertility. All right, these kinds of data kept coming up.



To conclude--the bottom line is that in this Princeton project they just could not tie fertility change to any of the standard socioeconomic variables. Now the word socioeconomic, I think, is a terrible word. What is not either socio or economic? I always go around and ask people descriptions of it and I think it basically means anything you can quantify, and you get interesting variables like education and we'll see this sort of disastrously from understanding the situation when we come into the third world.



Education suits you for a better job, especially women, so when people get educated it's an economic variable because it suits you for a better job, you can get higher pay, it makes it more worth your while to go out and work than stay home and have children. But, education also gives you a window on the world and makes you more open to new ideas, a greater sense of agency that you can talk back to your husband or your mother-in-law, and so forth, so a lot of the variables--you can't decide is this an economic variable or a social variable? It's very unfortunate that they use this term socioeconomic variable. But, I think it was early stage in understanding the problem and they didn't know what to do about it.



Also another problem, it's always in the social sciences when you try to do these studies, getting the data itself is really very difficult. Since Europe is organized politically into provinces that's where the data was gathered and that's--they had province level things, they didn't have individual village level information, they didn't have individual family kind of information. When you do an aggregation, even as finely as they could do, I mean it's amazing to do every province in Europe so that was for the--for that period of social science that was the low level of aggregation, but still within each province you have a huge range of people in very different circumstances, and maybe you're missing a lot by this aggregation, so aggregation is a problem. Since this period a lot of social science scholars have come back and argued tremendously over this and saying, 'no there really are economic reasons for fertility decline,' and we'll talk about those in a later lecture.



I just want to summarize--we spent a lot of time on this demographic transition and it's theory, and a lot of reading--and every year students say, 'oh I hated that part of the course,' but it is in a sense the most--for the modern times it's the most important part of the course because everything else that you read, every understanding of the what's happening now in developing countries is based on this stuff, either agrees with it or disagrees with it, or uses the same methodology or very self consciously tries to use a different methodology, this is the foundation of the fields. That's one reason you should know about it.



The other is it's such a tremendous change, it may be to my mind, it's the most important revolution ever in human history. Look what happens throughout this period. Life, people get to live three times as long, imagine if you're at 20, how many of you are under 20? Okay, half of you would be dead, half of this class would be dead if we weren't--if we hadn't gone through this transition of modernization. He's happy about that.



The numbers of human beings, the number of people that we now are able to keep alive is ten times larger, everyday it gets bigger, but last time I counted ten times larger than what we think the population was back then. So an enormous--even though it's the introduction of contraception which limits the amount of people or tries to limit the amount of people. In fact, the number of people on earth has just expanded enormously, both in numbers and in how long each one lives.



Wealth, individual per capita wealth, we saw that the industrial revolution by itself got into Malthusian problems and didn't, at least up until the fertility transition, did not improve people's individual wealth. That required the combination of industrial revolution which increased production and fertility control which put a limit on the number of people trying to get advantage from that increased production.



We've seen a tremendous democratization of marriage. Imagine a society where 30% of--70% of the people are unmarried, we sort of talk a lot about marriage and how marriage is going away as an institution. We're way, way ahead of that. China is way ahead of that and so imagine there was that--very few of you would have prospects of ever getting married because society just didn't allow it and the same for sex as I've mentioned, the democratization of sex. Your fertility coming under your individual control, what a big change in life, that you, now it's one of the big decision you can make. Do I want some children, many children, few children, whatever, when do I want them? All this comes under control.



Within marriage, previously couples were constantly under the pressure of constant childbearing, that the wife was always either pregnant or lactating. Later I'll show you some statistics from the third world that women are almost never free, they're always either pregnant or lactating until they die. Men had to go out--this is a period when men were basically the breadwinners. They had to support an ever increasing number of children under difficult economic circumstances. So men and women were freed from the requirement--they had no choice--the requirement of supporting, taking care of and supporting these large families.



There's so many issues that changed during this time. If you--if any of you are thinking of doing term papers there's just an infinite number of things that have not even been looked at. For instance, we talked a lot about abandonment of children, infanticide. When do you think that disappeared? Something in about this time; you read about it into the 1800s there was a lot of it and then it goes away. There's a lot written about the period when it was heavy and not much understanding of why did infanticide disappear. Was it due to this? I don't know the answer; I don't think it has been discovered; investigated, a great term paper.



What about the romantic conception of marriage? When marriage changes like this it becomes less of an economic thing, less of a childbearing thing, you don't need your wife to work, especially on the farm. What is the tie in between romantic conceptions that we all now have about marriage and love and all that and this whole demographic transition? In almost every way you can think of modern culture, this is at the root of it, that this is a thing that you always have to consider as whatever you believe, however you're leading your life, how much of it is due to these pioneers that we've talked about that started controlling their fertility as an individual decision rather than as a community decision?



Okay, there's no reading for today because the lecture is now caught up for the reading, so next week we'll talk on Tuesday and then on Thursday we have a guest lecturer. The schedule changed from what you have.



[end of transcript]

Course Index

Course Description


This survey course introduces students to the important and basic material on human fertility, population growth, the demographic transition and population policy. Topics include: the human and environmental dimensions of population pressure, demographic history, economic and cultural causes of demographic change, environmental carrying capacity and sustainability. Political, religious and ethical issues surrounding fertility are also addressed. The lectures and readings attempt to balance theoretical and demographic scale analyzes with studies of individual humans and communities. The perspective is global with both developed and developing countries included.



Course Structure:

This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 75 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2009.

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