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An Atlas of Fertility Decline in England and Wales

The first demographic transition, during which nations experienced major falls in both fertility and mortality, gathered momentum in Europe during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Despite extensive research, the process of decline - how and why it happened, where it started, and who led the behavioural changes necessary - is still not well understood. As a consequence there are major lacunae in many other fields of study: without knowledge of when, where and how fertility declined in particular sub-populations it has proven difficult to unravel the implications of the reduced number of children for family life, women's status, the development of education, the relief of overcrowding, better health, economic growth or population ageing. Our lack of understanding of fertility decline has, in part, stemmed from a widespread lack of the data necessary to measure age-specific fertility at either a fine geographical scale or on a detailed social or occupational basis over the course of the transition from high to low fertility. Age-specific measures are essential if insight into 'starting', 'spacing' or 'stopping' fertility regulating behaviour is sought. A time series of such measures across geographical and social space is also vital when trying to identify how new forms of behaviour spread through the population.

This project utilises individual-level data from the British censuses of 1851 to 1911 recently released by the Integrated Census Microdata (I-CeM) project to calculate age-specific fertility rates both for a range of geographical units covering England and Wales and for occupational groups and then to use spatial analysis techniques to investigate the relationships between these rates and other socioeconomic variables. These calculations need to allow for differences in infant mortality, as these can greatly affect overall observable fertility rates, and the proposed project will therefore generate a further dataset comprising quarterly infant mortality rates for the 2000+ sub-registration districts (SRDs) in both England and Wales as well as measures of child mortality.