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date: 18 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Over the past two centuries, the United States has witnessed dramatic changes in fertility rates and childbearing. This chapter describes shifts in childbearing and family size from 1800 to 2010 and describes the role of different factors in this evolution. Demand factors such as industrialization, urbanization, rising family incomes, public health improvements, and the growth in women’s wages generally reduced the benefits and raised the costs of having many children. Supply factors such as increases in infant and child survival and improvements in the technology of contraception and abortion have also altered parents’ decisions about their childbearing. This chapter summarizes the long-run trends in US fertility rates and completed childbearing, both overall and by mothers’ race/ethnicity and geography. Next, it evaluates evidence on the determinants of childbearing, including both economic and demographic explanations for these patterns. A final section weighs the evidence supporting the existence of two fertility transitions.

Keywords: demographic transition, fertility, contraception, family planning, industrialization, urbanization

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