Could the Fertility Decline in Space and Time Just Be a Communication Process? Agent-Based Simulations on Swedish Data

Sebastian Kluesener, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Francesco Scalone, Università di Bologna

Fertility decline is often viewed in the framework of innovation and adjustment (Carlsson 1966). According to the innovationist view fertility decline results predominantly from the diffusion of new knowledge, with spatiotemporal variation in the decline being shaped by communication pathways. The adaptationist view understands fertility decline primarily as a result of an adjustment to new circumstances, with spatiotemporal variation in the decline being related to variation in factors fostering the change (e.g. increased infant survival). In this project we analyze individual-level data of the Swedish censuses 1880-1900. We run agent-based simulations under static conditions with no variation in adjustment incentives to explore whether communication processes that are shaped by social and spatial variation in communication links are able to reproduce observed spatiotemporal characteristics of the fertility decline in different social status groups (elite; farmer; worker). Our results show that most major characteristics could in principle just stem from communication processes.

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Presented in Poster Session 3: Fertility Intentions and Behaviors