Ratio of Children to Women, 1920: A Study in the Differential Rate of Natural Increase in the United States

By Warren S. Thompson | Go to book overview

I
INTRODUCTION

More and more the nations of the Western World are concerning themselves to make inventories of their principal population movements. For a century and three-quarters Sweden has kept a relatively good account of its births and deaths as well as its numbers. Some of the other countries of western Europe have such data for a century or more, but for most of them the data have been gathered with reasonable accuracy for only a few decades; while for the countries outside of Europe having such data at all, they are of even more recent origin.

When the birth-registration area of the United States was first formed, in 1915, it comprised 10 States and the District of Columbia, containing 31.1 per cent of the population. In the same year the death-registration area, which had been established some years earlier, comprised 25 States, the District of Columbia, and certain cities and included 67.1 per cent of the population of the country. Certain States had had reliable registration data for a considerable time preceding the formation of the registration areas, but little information could be gleaned from them regarding births and deaths in the United States as a whole because of the great differences between different sections of the country. At present ( 1929) the registration area for both births and deaths includes all but four States and contains about 95 per cent of the total population.

The data on births published by the Bureau of the Census are gathered in the first instance not by the Federal Government but by the several States, and, in spite of the conditions maintained for admission to the registration area, they are of varying degrees of accuracy. The registration laws are not equally well enforced in all States. The States in which vital statistics have been gathered for a long time are quite likely to have more accurate data than some of the States in which the reporting of births and deaths has only recently attained sufficient accuracy to allow the States to be admitted to the registration area. It is, moreover, a matter of common knowledge that it is generally more difficult to secure accurate reports of births than of deaths; hence the birth rates of a good many States are probably less accurate than their death rates.

The birth statistics, however, in spite of shortcomings, do show directions in which we may look for significant trends in the processes of our population growth. But if we are to make any extensive inven-

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