Socioeconomic and religious differentials in marital fertility during the fertility transition: A micro-level study from Western Hungary, 1850–1939
The analysis of fertility decline and its socioeconomic and cultural determinants during the demographic transition is a topic that is rarely researched in Hungary. So far, the question has been examined only at country and regional levels, with the help of aggregate data. Much like the international research on historical demography, little attention has been paid to non-aggregate data and to the micro level. Previous family reconstitution studies, which can be regarded as the most feasible and prevalent method for micro-level analysis in Hungary, focused only on the analysis of pre-transitional fertility. We know, however, that on the one hand, in many communities irreversible fertility decline did not start before World War I, and on the other hand, the analysis of the transitional period offers more opportunities to better understand the background of changing fertility behaviour.The aim of the present paper is to investigate the socioeconomic and denominational differentials in marital fertility in a rapidly industrializing Western Transdanubian community, which was heterogeneous in these respects. The analysis covers the pre-transitional period and the fertility transition, mainly from the second part of the 19th century up to World War II. This period of the Hungarian demographic transition has never been examined at micro level. According to the results, the upper groups of the local society had higher fertility compared to others prior to the transition, but the socioeconomic patterns of childbearing changed during the 1870s–1880s. First, local elite groups began to decrease their family size. They were followed later by local craftsmen and skilled workers, then by smallholders, and finally by semi-skilled and unskilled workers. The fertility of Lutherans was slightly lower than that of Roman Catholics, but this can be explained by the different demographic and socioeconomic composition of these denominational groups. Fertility transition on the spot meant not only parity-specific birth control, but also increasing birth intervals, which was particularly significant in the period of the Great Depression (1929–1933).