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David, Paul A. & Mroz, Thomas A. (1989). Evidence of Fertility Regulation among Rural French Villagers, 1749-1789: A Sequential Econometric Model of Birth Spacing Behavior (Part 1). European Journal of Population, 5(1), 1-26.


The fertility histories of married couples in rural parishes in northern France in 1749-89--a period in which this population was assumed to have demonstrated natural fertility--were used to develop an econometric model of the sequence of live births. The shape and level of the parity-specific hazard rate is presumed, in natural fertility scenarios, to be unresponsive to differences in the number of surviving children. The log-logistic distribution was used to model the micro-level stochastic process governing the waiting time to next birth, while a multiple-branch specification of the likelihood function allowed for variations in inherent fecundability and behavioral heterogeneities that are independent of exogenous observable characteristics. The most striking finding was the emergence in the 3-branch model of a significant positive coefficient between the "girls alive" (but not "boys alive") variable and the birth spacing interval. Also observed was an inhibiting effect on fertility of increases in maternal age when the 3-branch model was used. Overall, comparison of log-likelihood values indicates that the fit of the model is substantially improved by introduction of a 3rd branch that includes additional data on covariates related to couples' previous experiences with child mortality. In addition, the results refute the assumption of natural fertility in this pre-Revolutionary rural French population and suggest, instead, that both fertility regulation and son preference were practiced.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

European Journal of Population


David, Paul A.
Mroz, Thomas A.