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Morgan, S. Philip (1991). Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Childlessness. American Journal of Sociology, 97(3), 779-807.


In some northeastern states, levels of childlessness approached 30% for women born in the mid-19th century. Other states in the South and West had levels of 6%-8%. Nationally, childlessness increased across cohorts born in the latter part of the 19th century. Nonmarriage and delayed marriage account for some of this variability. But the argument here is that fertility control within marriage played a major role in producing these differentials. Both the intercohort and cross-sectional differentials in childlessness match differentials in higher parity births, suggesting that fertility control was practiced most in the times and places where childlessness was greatest. Furthermore, "own-children" methods are used to present evidence of fertility control among childless women early in marriage. The argument is not that young women born in the mid-19th century intended to be childless at young ages; it is instead that they were willing and able to postpone childbearing. With fertility delay came experience and circumstances that made it less likely that women would ever marry and/or have children. These arguments are basically the same as those used to account for contemporary childlessness in the United States.


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Journal Article

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American Journal of Sociology


Morgan, S. Philip