The Fertility of American Women

By Wilson H. Grabill; Clyde V. Kiser et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4 RESIDENCE, NATIVITY, AND ETHNIC GROUPS

A. Regions, divisions, and States

Ratios of young children to women. Some information on trends since 1800 in ratios of children under 5 years old to white women 20 to 44 years old by geographic divisions was given in Chapter 2, table 6, with an analysis at the national level only. The trends by geographic divisions are shown graphically in figure 10.

In 1800, the ratios of children under 5 years old to 1,000 white women 20 to 44 years old varied from 1,146 in the New England Division to 1,918 in the East North Central Division. Values higher than 1,400 occurred only in the thinly populated newer areas of settlement and undoubtedly reflected migration that was selective of young women from the older areas, perhaps of women who already had some young children.1 Such long-settled divisions as the Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic, and (in 1810) the West South Central,2 had fertility ratios that were not far above or below a level of 1,400. These long-settled areas probably had a larger proportion of single women and of married women who were not quite as fertile as the select group of women who migrated to frontier areas.

In the normal course of events, the fertility of women in the newer areas of settlement would have declined as the areas became more settled. It did decline, at a faster absolute pace between 1800 and 1850 in the two North Central Divisions and the East South Central Division than in the longer settled divisions.

It is possible that a ratio of about 1,400 children under 5 years old per 1,000 women 20 to 44 years old was the usual size for long-settled divisions, other than New England, for many years before 1800, and that by chance

____________________
1
It is estimated that not more than 7 percent of the children under 5 years old had mothers 15 to 19 years old or 45 to 49 years old. The ratios of children to women 20 to 44 years old include these additional children. For ratios as large as 1,918 to exist, there must have been very low infant mortality and most of the women must have been less than 35 years old. In 1910 Census data for the supposedly quite fertile ever-married white and Negro women in rural.farm areas of the South, the ratio did not exceed 1,374 own children under 5 years old per 1,000 ever-married women at any single year of age and the ratio was much smaller among women in the broad age range of 20 to 44 years. Perhaps the frontier women had an average of about 11 births in a lifetime, compared with a national average of about 8.
2
The West South Central Division was a "long settled" area in 1810 in the sense that the bulk of the people enumerated was in the then 92-year old city of New Orleans, in long-established small villages along the lower Mississippi, and in the nearby populated rural territory.

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