Exploring the Role of Communication in Shaping Fertility Transition Patterns in Space and Time

  • Sebastian Klüsener
  • Francesco Scalone
  • Martin Dribe
Part of the The Springer Series on Demographic Methods and Population Analysis book series (PSDE, volume 41)


The fertility decline during the demographic transition is often viewed within the frameworks of innovation and adjustment. According to the innovation perspective, this process is mostly driven by the diffusion of new knowledge and attitudes, whereas in the adaptationist perspective fertility decline is seen primarily as an adaptation to changing circumstances. In this contribution, we present models that allow us to simulate fertility declines that are solely driven by the diffusion of information structured by social and spatial variation in communication links. Using these models, we explore the question of whether observed social and spatiotemporal patterns of the fertility transition could be shaped by communication processes alone. The potential of these models is explored in a case study of Sweden. We run simulations on a full individual-level sample of the married female population aged 20–49 in 1880, which is around the time when the fertility transition started in Sweden. The population is divided into three social classes (elite, farmers, workers and others). As proxies for communication links, we use migration links. The simulation outcomes are contrasted with the observed fertility decline patterns in Sweden between 1880 and 1900. Our simulations demonstrate that communication structured by social and spatial variation in communication links could have shaped a substantial share of the observed social class and spatiotemporal characteristics of the fertility decline during the demographic transition.


Social Class Geographic Information System Communication Link Fertility Decline Fertility Transition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Frans Willekens for discussions on the specifications of the models, and for his input and suggestions on earlier versions of this contribution. We also thank the anonymous reviewers and the editors for their comments and suggestions, and Miriam Hils for language editing. This work is part of the project “Towards the modern family. Socioeconomic stratification, family formation and fertility in a historical perspective”, funded by the Swedish Research Council and the Crafoord Foundation.


  1. Bengtsson, T., & Dribe, M. (2014). The historical fertility transition at the micro level: Southern Sweden 1815–1939. Demographic Research, 30, 493–534.Google Scholar
  2. Bivand, R. S., Pebesma, E., & Gómez-Rubio, V. (2013). Applied spatial data analysis with R (2nd ed.). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. J. D. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Caldwell, J. C., & Caldwell, P. (1987). The cultural context of high fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa. Population and Development Review, 13(3), 409–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carlsson, G. (1966). The decline of fertility: Innovation or adjustment process. Population Studies, 20(2), 149–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Casterline, J. B. (Ed.). (2001). Diffusion processes and fertility transition: Selected perspectives. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cleland, J., & Wilson, C. (1987). Demand theories of the fertility transition: An iconoclastic view. Population Studies, 41(1), 5–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Coale, A. J. (1973). The demographic transition reconsidered. In International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Population Conference 1973 1 (pp. 53–73). Liège: International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.Google Scholar
  9. Coale, A. J., & Watkins, S. C. (Eds.). (1986). The decline of fertility in Europe: The revised proceedings of a conference on the Princeton European Fertility Project. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Costa, R. (2014). The fertility transition in Belgium: A contagious process? Poster presented at the European Population Conference, Budapest, Hungary. 25–28 June 2014.Google Scholar
  11. Dribe, M. (2009). Demand and supply factors in the fertility transition: A county-level analysis of age-specific marital fertility in Sweden, 1880–1930. European Review of Economic History, 13(1), 65–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dribe, M., & Scalone, F. (2014). Social class and net fertility before, during and after the demographic transition: A micro-level analysis of Sweden 1880–1970. Demographic Research, 30, 429–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dribe, M., Hacker, J. D., & Scalone, F. (2014a). The impact of socio-economic status on net fertility during the historical fertility decline: A comparative analysis of Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and the USA. Population Studies, 68(2), 135–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dribe, M., Oris, M., & Pozzi, L. (Eds.). (2014b). Socioeconomic status and fertility before, during, and after the demographic transition: An introduction. Demographic Research, 31, 161–182.Google Scholar
  15. Dribe, M., Helgertz, J., & van de Putte, B. (2015). Did social mobility increase during the industrialization process? A micro-level study of a transforming community in Southern Sweden 1828–1968. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 41(1), 25–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dyson, T. (2011). The role of the demographic transition in the process of urbanization. Population and Development Review, 37(suppl. 1), 34–54.Google Scholar
  17. Galloway, P. R., Hammel, E. A., & Lee, R. D. (1994). Fertility decline in Prussia, 1875–1910: A pooled cross-section time series analysis. Population Studies, 48(1), 135–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goldstein, J. R., & Klüsener, S. (2014). Spatial analysis of the causes of fertility decline in Prussia. Population and Development Review, 40(3), 497–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. González-Bailón, S., & Murphy, T. E. (2013). The effects of social interactions on fertility decline in nineteenth-century France: An agent-based simulation experiment. Population Studies, 67(2), 135–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hägerstrand, T. (1965). A Monte Carlo approach to diffusion. European Journal of Sociology, 6(1), 43–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Haines, M. R. (1992). Occupation and social class during fertility decline: Historical perspectives. In J. R. Gillis, L. A. Tilly, & D. Levine (Eds.), The European experience of declining fertility, 1850–1970: The quiet revolution (pp. 193–226). Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  22. Hofsten, E., & Lundström, H. (1976). Swedish population history: Main trends from 1750 to 1970. Stockholm: National Central Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
  23. Klüsener, S., Scalone, F., & Dribe, M. (2013). Spatial vs. social distance in the diffusion of fertility decline: Evidence from Sweden 1880–1900. Paper presented at the XXVII IUSSP International Population Conference, Busan. 26–31 August 2013.Google Scholar
  24. Klüsener, S., Dribe, M., & Scalone, F. (2016). Fertility transition as a communication process. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  25. Kohler, H.-P. (2001). Fertility and social interaction: An economic perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lindström, M. (2001). Conservative voting and the church: The religious dimension in the electoral geography of the conservative (moderate) party in Sweden 1921–1998. Statsvetenskaplig Tidskrift, 104(4), 305–328.Google Scholar
  27. Livi-Bacci, M. (1986). Social-group forerunners of fertility control in Europe. In A. J. Coale & S. C. Watkins (Eds.), The decline of fertility in Europe: The revised proceedings of a conference on the Princeton European Fertility Project (pp. 182–200). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Makinwa-Adebusoye, P. (2007). Sociocultural factors affecting fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa. In United Nations (Ed.), Prospects for fertility decline in high fertility countries (Population bulletin of the United Nations, Special issue nos. 46/47, pp. 55–69). New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  29. MPIDR [Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research]. (2014). MPIDR Population History GIS Collection. Rostock: MPIDR.Google Scholar
  30. Rosero-Bixby, L., & Casterline, J. B. (1994). Interaction diffusion and fertility transition in Costa Rica. Social Forces, 73(2), 435–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ruggles, S., Roberts, E., Sarkar, S., & Sobek, M. (2011). The North Atlantic Population Project: Progress and prospects. Historical Methods, 44(1), 1–6.Google Scholar
  32. Scalone, F., & Dribe, M. (2012). Socioeconomic status and net fertility in the demographic transition: Sweden in 1900 – A preliminary analysis. Popolazione e Storia, 11(2), 111–132.Google Scholar
  33. Schmertmann, C. P., Assunção, R. M., & Potter, J. E. (2010). Knox meets Cox: Adapting epidemiological space-time statistics to demographic studies. Demography, 47(3), 629–650.Google Scholar
  34. Shyrock, H. S., & Siegel, J. S. (1980). The methods and materials of demography. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.Google Scholar
  35. Storeygard, A., Balk, D., Levy, M., & Deane, G. (2008). The global distribution of infant mortality: A subnational spatial view. Population, Space and Place, 14(3), 209–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Szreter, S. (1996). Fertility, class and gender in Britain 1860–1940. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Van Bavel, J. (2004). Diffusion effects in the European fertility transition: Historical evidence from within a Belgian town (1846–1910). European Journal of Population/Revue Européenne de Démographie, 20(1), 63–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. van Leeuwen, M. H. D., & Maas, I. (2011). HISCLASS: A Historical International Social Class Scheme. Leuven: Leuven University Press.Google Scholar
  39. van Leeuwen, M. H. D., Maas, I., & Miles, A. (2002). HISCO: Historical International Standard Classification of Occupations. Leuven: Leuven University Press.Google Scholar
  40. van Poppel, F. W. A. (1985). Late fertility decline in the Netherlands: The influence of religious denomination, socioeconomic group and region. European Journal of Population/Revue Européenne de Démographie, 1(4), 347–373.Google Scholar
  41. van Poppel, F., Reher, D. S., Sanz-Gimeno, A., Sanchez-Dominguez, M., & Beekink, E. (2012). Mortality decline and reproductive change during the Dutch demographic transition: Revisiting a traditional debate with new data. Demographic Research, 27, 299–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Klüsener
    • 1
  • Francesco Scalone
    • 2
  • Martin Dribe
    • 3
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Demographic ResearchRostockGermany
  2. 2.Department of Statistical SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  3. 3.Centre for Economic DemographyLund UniversityLundSweden

Personalised recommendations