Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


TCDOFT — Result In Brief

Project ID: 327760
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Israel
Domain: Society

French migration and fertility decline

An EU team has studied French domestic migration in relation to national fertility for the period 1861-1911. Overall, fertility declined as a result of people moving from high- to low-fertility regions, and emigration to Paris explained one quarter of the total change.
French migration and fertility decline
France is an anomaly according to the theory that a decline in fertility is a key factor in the transition to modern economic growth. Although French birth rates had reached uniformly low rates prior to World War I, economic changes were not enough to explain the demographic transition.

The EU-funded TCDOFT (The cultural diffusion of the fertility transition: Internal migrations in nineteenth century France) project offered a new theory. The team argued that although few French people migrated to the New World during the 19th century, many migrated within the country. Researchers investigated the hypothesis, focusing on specific patterns of migration among the French provinces between 1861 and 1911.

TCDOFT surveyed historical records of 3 000 families, including places of birth and death, of individuals whose surnames started with T, R or A. The data, combined with fertility records for each province, allowed for the reconstruction of fertility norms of emigrants and immigrants for the various provinces. The team estimated migrants’ contributions to demographic transition as weighted averages of fertility rates in the migrants’ home and destination provinces.

In parallel, researchers traced the development of the French rail network and consequent lowering of transportation costs. Such development increased domestic migration.

Results indicate that fertility declined most in areas of high migration where the migrants moved to low-fertility regions, particularly Paris. The data was robust in accounting for confounding factors, including declining child mortality, rising education levels, industrialisation and religiosity. Researchers interpreted the findings as follows. Migrants who moved from high- to low-fertility regions would have communicated the new fertility norms and costs of raising children to acquaintances back home. Such information may have affected the motivations of potential immigrants.

The interpretation is supported by the following fact. Emigration to Paris accounted for over one quarter of migration within France during the study period, which explains half the national decline in fertility. Child mortality was the only other variable having a significant correlation to fertility decline.

The TCDOFT results contribute to related academic debates and to modern state policy. The study has shown the importance of migration in fertility decline.

Related information


Life Sciences


Migration, fertility, demographic transition, TCDOFT, nineteenth century France
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