Pretransition marital fertility variation over time: was there deliberate control in England?

D. Friedlander*, B. S. Okun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


An important line of research concerning historical fertility patterns in currently developed countries of Europe has concluded that, prior to the fertility transition, marital fertility was essentially constant over time, and deliberate fertility control was virtually unknown. It has been argued that variations over time in overall fertility were largely the consequence of variations in nuptiality. Other researchers have challenged these views and present evidence for the existence of a significant minority of fertility controllers in pretransition populations. In this article, we find support for this second view and argue that (1) there was significant, non-random variation in marital fertility over time, prior to the transition; (2) in many cases, this variation in marital fertility was large relative to contemporaneous variations in nuptiality; and (3) in a substantial minority of the cases, the variation over time in pretransition marital fertility was so large that it is suggestive of deliberate fertility control. Thus, our findings question the view of fertility transition as an innovation in deliberate marital fertility control. While most of our evidence is based on data from England and Wales, we find corroboration of our key results in other European data.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)139-158
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Family History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995


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