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Historically, the process of demographic transition involved a shift in a whole range of behaviors concerning family formation, employment and child-rearing strategies. Yet, most studies focus primarily on fertility and, more specifically, on marital fertility as the (sole) thing to explain. Using a new dataset from Austria-Hungary for the years 1880 and 1910, I show that non-marital fertility and marriage behavior cannot be omitted from the analysis, since both lifetime celibacy and non-marital fertility were high and varied throughout the region. The percentage of unmarried fertile-age women, recorded in the 1880 census, spanned a wide range across the districts (from 30% to 82%), and these unmarried women were active in childbearing, furnishing (in some of the empire's 460 civil districts) the majority of all births of 1881. Marriage and fertility decisions therefore need to be analyzed jointly but as two separate decisions. My preliminary results indicate that cultural factors such as religious and ethnic identities or the degree of religious and ethnic fragmentation are only weakly correlated with the observed patterns of marital and fertility behavior. High rates of women’s employment, especially in industry and mining, impact both entry into marriage (negatively) and marital fertility (also negatively) but do not seem to have much impact on non-marital fertility. The upshot is that the same explanatory variables may well work towards increasing overall fertility in a district through the marriage channel while also acting towards its reduction by way of depressing marital fertility. Failing to distinguish between the channels can lead to a downward bias in estimating the impact of individual factors on overall fertility.
Tomáš Cvrček is an Associate Professor in Economics at UCL SSEES. His research interests focus on economic history of Central and Eastern Europe, especially issues connected with the rise of modern schooling, the demographic transition, technological change and the accompanying change in living standards. To this end, he has been awarded a three-year research grant from the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (GACR) entitled “Schooling and Human Capital During Industrial Revolution: The Case of the Habsburg Empire, 1780-1914“. He was a nominee for the UCLU Student Choice Teaching Awards for outstanding teaching in 2015, 2016 and 2017.