Book Chapter

Exploring the role of communication in shaping fertility transition patterns in space and time

Klüsener, S., Scalone, F., Dribe, M.
In: Grow, A., van Bavel, J. (Eds.): Agent-based modelling in population studies: concepts, methods, and applications, 369–403
The Springer series on demographic methods and population analysis 41
Cham, Springer (2016)


The fertility decline during the demographic transition is often viewed within the frameworks of innovation and adjustment. According to the innovation perspective, this process is mostly driven by the diffusion of new knowledge and attitudes, whereas in the adaptationist perspective fertility decline is seen primarily as an adaptation to changing circumstances. In this contribution, we present models that allow us to simulate fertility declines that are solely driven by the diffusion of information structured by social and spatial variation in communication links. Using these models, we explore the question of whether observed social and spatiotemporal patterns of the fertility transition could be shaped by communication processes alone. The potential of these models is explored in a case study of Sweden. We run simulations on a full individual-level sample of the married female population aged 20–49 in 1880, which is around the time when the fertility transition started in Sweden. The population is divided into three social classes (elite, farmers, workers and others). As proxies for communication links, we use migration links. The simulation outcomes are contrasted with the observed fertility decline patterns in Sweden between 1880 and 1900. Our simulations demonstrate that communication structured by social and spatial variation in communication links could have shaped a substantial share of the observed social class and spatiotemporal characteristics of the fertility decline during the demographic transition.

Keywords: Sweden, communication, fertility decline, geography, simulation, social stratification
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.