European Fertility Project

Introduction and Overview 

The European Fertility Project had two objectives: 

  • To create a quantitative record of the European fertility transition - the decline of 50% or more in the number of children the average woman bears. This profound demographic change, and the social changes associated with it, occurred within the past two centuries in almost all of the several hundred provinces of Europe, and 
  • To determine the social and economic circumstances that prevailed when the modern decline in fertility began in the hope of elucidating the causal mechanisms of the fertility transition. 

To accomplish the two objectives, two sets of measures were required, one to describe demographic characteristics (primarily marriage and fertility) and one to describe social and economic circumstances. The demographic measures had to be such that they could be calculated easily using the often limited census and vital resistration data available. To this end, a series of standard measures was developed which compared the fertility experience of the populations of the provinces of Europe to that of the Hutterites, a religious community residing in the western United States and Canada. The Hutterite women had the highest recorded levels of natural fertility known at that date. 

The OPR archive contains the following data that is freely available to researchers:

  • Standard demographic measures collected for 1229 provinces and smaller districts in Europe at various points in time from the late eighteenth century to the mid twentieth century.
  • Socioeconomic data collected for some of the European countries that were included in the project.
  • The original Hutterite data used to establish the standard fertility measures.

Key References

The Princeton University Press published eight books, including a summary volume, in a series devoted to the Princeton European Fertility Project. These are:

  1. Coale, Ansley J.; Watkins, Susan Cotts [editors].  The Decline of Fertility in Europe: the Revised Proceedings of a Conference on the Princeton European Fertility Project. Princeton University Press, 1986.
  2. Coale, Ansley J.; Anderson, Barbara; Harm, ErnaHuman Fertility in Russia since the 19th Century. Princeton University Press, 1979.
  3. Knodel, John E. The Decline of Fertility in Germany, 1871-1939. Princeton University Press, 1974.
  4. Lesthaeghe, Ron J. The Decline of Belgian Fertility, 1800-1970. Princeton University Press, 1977.
  5. Livi Bacci, Massimo.  A Century of Portuguese Fertility. Princeton University Press, 1971.
  6. Livi Bacci, Massimo.  A History of Italian Fertility during the Last Two Centuries.
  7. Teitelbaum, Michael S. The British Fertility Decline: Demographic Transition in the Crucible of the Industrial Revolution. Princeton University Press, 1984.
  8. Van der Walle The Female Population of France in the Nineteenth Century Princeton University Press, 1974.

In addition, the following articles summarize results for some of the other countries:

  1. Demeny, Paul. "Early Fertility Decline in Austria-Hungary: a Lesson in Demographic Transition." In Population and Social Change, D.V. Glass and R. Revelle (eds.) New York, Crane, Russak and Co., Inc., 1972.
  2. Forrest, Jaqueline D. Fertility Decline in Austria, 1880-1910. Doctoral Dissertation, Princeton University, 1975.
  3. Livi Bacci, Massimo. "Fertility and Nuptiality Changes in Spain from the Late XVIII to the Early XX Century." In Population Studies, vol. 22, nos. 1 and 2. 1968.
  4. Matthiessen, Poul C. "Some Reflections on the Historical and Recent Fertility Decline in Denmark". In Scandanavian Population Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, 1984. 
  5. Mosk, Carl. "Rural-Urban Differentials in Swedish Fertility 1880-1960." Working Paper no. 123, Dept. of Economics, University of California at Berkeley. 1978.
  6. Siampos, George S. and Valaoras, Vas G. "Long-Term Fertility Trends in Greece." Paper delivered at the International Population Conference, London. 1969.
  7. Van der Walle, Francine. "Education and the Demographic Transition in Switzerland." Population and Development Review, vol. 6, no. 3. 1980.