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The Decline of Non-Marital Fertility in Europe, 1880-1940

Edward Shorter, John Knodel and Etienne Van De Walle
Population Studies
Vol. 25, No. 3 (Nov., 1971), pp. 375-393
DOI: 10.2307/2173074
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2173074
Page Count: 19
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The Decline of Non-Marital Fertility in Europe, 1880-1940
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Abstract

Illegitimate fertility rates in almost all European countries dropped by 50% or more between 1880 and 1940, and their movement was to a large extent parallel to the decline of marital fertility rates. Although the factors influencing illegitimate fertility cannot be easily disentangled, the most likely explanation of the decline seems to be an increasing resort to birth control. Since the motivation to avoid illegitimate births most likely existed before the decline, the trend may indicate a greater acceptability or accessibility of contraception and abortion. Cultural factors and differences in mating customs must be explored further to account for pre-decline levels of illegitimacy. Regional variation of levels and trends of illegitimacy does not point towards urbanization or industrialization as major explanatory variables.

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