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Historisk tidskrift 126:2 • 2006

Innehåll (Contents) 2006:2

Uppsatser (Articles)

Barnafödande i Sverige under 1900-talet – ett historiskt tema med variationer

Maria Stanfors

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Childbearing in Twentieth-Century Sweden – Theme with Variation

In this article, fertility variations in twentieth-century Sweden are described and explained. In international comparison, fertility variations have been especially volatile in Sweden. The article focus on features of economic change in twentiethcentury Sweden and relates the total fertility rate to macro-level indicators of economic change. Economic theory is combined with a structural analytical approach in a multivariate time series analysis of the determinants of fertility. A model, which combines the New Home Economics approach and Easterlin’s relative income theory with indicators of business cycle variation and structural economic change, is estimated.

The results suggest a new interpretation of fertility change in which economic indicators of the business cycle and the relative demand for women’s labour are significant. Female-to-male relative wages have a strong effect on fertility, although not in a straightforward way. A pattern of counter-cyclical fertility is reversed into one of pro-cyclical fertility in 1975. A strong negative price effect thus turns into a positive income effect once women’s economic roles change and women get a stronger labour market attachment and their earnings make up important contributions to family income. Business cycle indicators also have strong effects, and so has a measure of structural change that serves as a determinant of fertility variation mainly through a reformulation of the gender division of labour in times of economic transformation and through demand-induced changes in the price of women’s time. The application of a long-term perspective shows that Swedish women’s roles have changed as the economy and society have changed. However, change was concentrated to certain periods of expansion and renewal with respect to women’s roles. These periods were the 1920s, the latter part of the 1940s, the 1960s and 1970s, and the 1990s. During these periods women, rather than men, changed their behaviour by increasing their level of education and labour force participation, by moving into new sectors and occupations and breaking male-dominance and by postponing or bringing forward childbirth. Thus, fertility varied during the twentieth century as a result of aggregate timing and spacing effects that occurred when different cohorts of women responded, in a synchronized way, to contemporaneous conditions and changed their reproductive as well as productive behaviour.


fertility, gender, structural economic change, twentieth-century Sweden