European Social Science History Conference location:Vienna date:23-26 April
In this paper we will examine the fertility transition from the point of view of the life course: when did changes in the starting, spacing and stopping of childbirth take place? How does this relate to the trajectory lived by the same individuals, women and men, in terms of the deaths of their children? We will use sequence analysis to investigate the population of the Antwerp district in the second half of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, as this is the time when the fertility transition took place in this region.
Through the use of sequence analysis we are able to divide our individuals in clusters (groups) based on the timing of their marriage (if there is one), the births of their children and the moment where they have their last child. This can lead to groups such as women who married early and had many children, women who stopped giving birth at young ages, men who married late and had only a few children, etc. One of the strengths of sequence analysis is that patterns can be found that the researcher may not have been looking for, but that are present in the data, which makes it a great tool for an exploratory analysis. We are particularly interested in the connection between groups with similarity in terms of mortality (mortality clusters) and groups with similarity in terms of child births (fertility clusters). We wish to see whether a woman’s life course changed first by having fewer infant and child deaths after which she had longer birth intervals and/or earlier stopping, as can be expected by the theory of demographic transition. We will also try to use sequence analysis as a tool to determine the periodization of the fertility transition in Antwerp, and to compare the life courses of different groups of men and women in terms of socioeconomic status and place of residence. Finally, we also hope to relate individuals and their parental careers to the mortality and fertility groups (clusters) their family members are in.
For these research questions we will use the COR*-database, which contains fully linked micro level demographic data on individual life courses based on the population registers and vital registration records. Due to the nature of the sample (based on surnames), the database is especially rich in data on kin-related individuals, allowing us to take into account information on siblings and cousins. The database is set in the Belgian district of Antwerp and contains information about the city itself and the suburban and rural communities around it for the period 1846-1910.