Journal Article

Spatial and social distance at the onset of the fertility transition: Sweden, 1880-1900

Klüsener, S., Dribe, M., Scalone, F.
Demography, 56:1, 169–199 (2019)
Open Access


Most studies on the fertility transition have focused either on macro-level trends or on micro-level patterns with limited geographic scope. Much less attention has been given to the interplay between individual characteristics and contextual conditions, including geographic location. Here we investigate the relevance of geography and socioeconomic status for understanding fertility variation in the initial phase of the Swedish fertility transition. We conduct spatially sensitive multilevel analyses on full-count individual-level census data. Our results show that the elite constituted the vanguard group in the fertility decline and that the shift in fertility behavior occurred quickly among them in virtually all parts of Sweden. Other socioeconomic status groups experienced the decline with some delay, and their decline patterns were more clustered around early centers of the decline. Long-distance migrants initially had higher fertility than people living close to their birthplace. However, as the fertility decline unfolded, this advantage was either reduced or reversed. This supports the view that migration and fertility are linked in this process. Our results confirm that socioeconomic status differences were of considerable relevance in structuring the fertility transition. The degree to which spatial distance fostered spatial variation in the fertility decline seems to have been negatively correlated with socioeconomic status, with the pattern of decline among the elite showing the lowest degree of spatial variation.

Keywords: Sweden, demographic transition, fertility, geography, socio-economic status
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.