Forerunners of the Fertility Transition: Jews in Bohemia from the Enlightenment until the Interwar Times

Jana Vobeck√°, Vienna Institute of Demography

The paper studies the fertility transition and explains under which conditions its forerunners started to reduce their fertility. It focuses on Jews in Bohemia, who had low fertility rates very early on, not only in comparison with the total country population but also in comparison to Jews elsewhere in Europe. A unique set of aggregate data on population change from the late 18th century until the Shoah allows tracking the process of Jewish fertility transition in its entirety, comparing it with gentiles and interpreting it in its cultural and socio-historical context. The paper shows that Jewish fertility was limited within marriage already in the 18th century. A further sharp decrease came after 1848, when Jews acquired equal civil rights. The necessary conditions for fertility decline thus came together at this time: low mortality, upward mobility aspirations, high human capital, low religiosity, and a favorable legal and socio-economic environment.

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Presented in Session 185: Social Change and Fertility