The determinants of the reproductive behavior during the pre-transitional period: the case of the rural hinterland of Bologna in the XIX century

Rosella Rettaroli, Università di Bologna
Francesco Scalone, Università degli Studi di Sassari

This work examines the evolution of the reproductive behaviour in two parishes of the rural hinterland of Bologna during the period between 1818 and 1900. The research studies the effect of the socio-economic transformation on the changing mechanisms of fertility by using micro-level data with a longitudinal approach at the beginning of the demographic transition. The rural hinterland of Bologna offers an interesting socio-economic profile, since it was characterized by the typical Italian sharecropping economy based on large-scale families. So our purpose is to confirm the hypothesis that even in the pre-transitional era the reproductive behavior was significantly shaped by the specific features of the domestic economy and the family context. A multivariate statistical analysis has been carried out by using the event-history techniques on the reconstituted longitudinal data in order to estimate the odds of having a child within a year. The analysis includes important bio-demographic variables which are able to capture some important aspects of the reproductive process (marriage age of mother, mother age, interval between consecutive births), but also variables which are more related to the economic and social conditions of the family (type of family, socio-economic status, migrating status). The results confirm the hypothesis that the premature death of the last child born reduces the interval between two consecutive childbirths, thus confirming the importance of breast-feeding. However, from the socio-economic point of view, the women living in the complex sharecropping households experienced a significant and higher risk of childbirth than the women in the daily wagers’ families. In addition, the reproductive behavior of the sharecroppers seemed to be substantially invariant to the short term solicitations, whereas the laborers’ group experienced a negative price effect. Both the descriptive and the multivariate analysis indicated a slight and gradual decrease of the fertility levels over the period in question.

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Presented in Session 31: Infant and child mortality and fertility: reproduction in 19th and early 20th century Europe