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The Role of Marriage Behaviour in the Demographic Transition: The Case of Eastern Europe Around 1900

June L. Sklar
Population Studies
Vol. 28, No. 2 (Jul., 1974), pp. 231-247
DOI: 10.2307/2173956
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2173956
Page Count: 17
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The Role of Marriage Behaviour in the Demographic Transition: The Case of Eastern Europe Around 1900
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Abstract

This paper examines patterns of marriage behaviour in Eastern Europe around 1900 and their relation to population growth in the region during this period. Eastern Europe is shown to have exhibited two patterns of marriage behaviour around 1900: late marriage and moderate levels of celibacy in the Czech, Baltic and Polish provinces, and early marriage and low levels of celibacy in the Balkans. These patterns were buttressed by contrasting kinship and religious institutions, thus making them highly resistant to change. As Eastern Europe entered the rapid-growth stage of the demographic transition at the turn of the century, people accommodated their marriage behaviour to rising numbers. Especially important in their accommodation were the contrasting levels of economic development in Eastern Europe. In the Czech, Baltic and Polish territories, a relatively high level of development, largely responsible for the population increase, was involved in a complex process including ongoing marriage behaviour, migration, an unbalanced sex ratio, and growing opportunities for female employment in industry. This process resulted in a reinforcement of the established marriage patterns, enabling the population to limit its natural increase. The Balkans were characterized by a low level of economic development, but population rose nonetheless through the introduction of modern medical techniques. The early response to rising numbers, strengthened by the absence of economic opportunities, was also the reinforcement of established marriage behaviour. This response was not, however, conducive to limiting population growth. Judging by the experiences of the Czech, Baltic and Polish provinces on the one hand, and the Balkans on the other, it is suggested that contemporary proposals to limit population growth in the less developed nations by raising the age at marriage will be hampered unless concomitant measures are taken to increase economic opportunities.

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