'The Number and Quality of Children': Education and Marital Fertility in Early-Twentieth Century Iowa

By Smith, Daniel Scott | Journal of Social History, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview

'The Number and Quality of Children': Education and Marital Fertility in Early-Twentieth Century Iowa


Smith, Daniel Scott, Journal of Social History


Using remarkably rich data on the extent and type of schooling collected by the state census of Iowa in 1915, this essay explores the role of education in structuring the transition to low fertility in the United States. Its point of departure is a pioneering study that employed these data published for Iowa counties within a framework concerned with the quality of children. By also using information on individuals, the article attempts to isolate the distinctive role of schooling in influencing the fertility behavior of married women in Iowa.(1)

In American demographic history, very little is known directly about the impact of schooling on the fertility of women. Similarly, in American educational history, scarcely any research has focused on the impact of variation in education on any later behavior of individuals as adults. In addition to a narrow focus on educational institutions, the absence of appropriate data accounts for this gap in the history of education.(2) In 1940 and thereafter, the U.S. Census recorded the number of years of schooling for a sample of the population. Before that date, scholars must rely on the extremely time-consuming method of record linkage to tie status or behavior in adult life to the schooling received as a child.(3)

Education figures centrally in the general literature on the transition from high to low fertility for political, empirical, and theoretical reasons. First, education is, unlike other determinants of fertility, under the control of government policy makers. Since the 1950s, much of the research on the process of fertility decline has been framed by the need to curtail the rapid rates of population growth in Third World societies. In principle, the state can independently intervene to alter the extent and change the content of education. Thus, even though the magnitude of the impact of schooling on fertility might be less than other factors, it is important because it can be manipulated.

Second, education usually makes a substantial difference on fertility in studies across societies, over time, and within populations. While the relationship is not universal, it is robust. Fertility is typically found to be negatively related to the extent of schooling.(4) Education can affect more than fertility within marriage, making it necessary to control for a multiplicity of other demographic variables, especially nuptiality. Variation in schooling frequently is also intertwined with other attributes that capture socio-economic development. Thus, the relationship must be assessed within a framework that includes the several other factors that structure fertility behavior.

Third, the potential importance of education to fertility is complex and multifaceted. Given the significance of the topic, scholars from several social-science disciplines and theoretical traditions have offered diverse conceptual frameworks. The impact can occur later on adults of childbearing age or as the response to a change in the schooling of children themselves.(5) The role of schooling has been interpreted narrowly, or at the other extreme, has been advanced as the key to the revolution in fertility.(6) Current wisdom on population policy, as exemplified by the 1994 United Nations' conference in Cairo, Egypt, emphasizes the importance of education in demographic change, especially for the behavior of women.(7)

The Place of Iowa in Fertility and Educational Transitions:

In 1940, when the Census first recorded and tabulated data on the school attainment of adults, American fertility, which began its decline early in the nineteenth century, had plummeted to a level at which the population was barely replacing itself. At the end of the Great Depression, there was the familiar inverse relationship between education and both nuptiality and the number of children ever born. In order to gain insight into the role of education in the decline of American fertility, better information is needed for earlier phases of the transition. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'The Number and Quality of Children': Education and Marital Fertility in Early-Twentieth Century Iowa
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.