Infant mortality and the European demographic transition.
The decline in infant and child mortality has often been singled out as the decisive factor that led to the modern fertility decline. A high birth rate to ensure surviving children loses its utility as more children survive. Data from the Princeton European Fertility Project are used to test the relationship between infant mortality and fertility decline. Before 1890, infant mortality differed widely between countries in Europe. Epidemics, famines and wars caused wide fluctuations in rates. Infant mortality was higher in urban than in rural areas, a trend that reverses itself at the time of the abrupt fall in infant mortality. Infants over 1 month old were more vulnerable to the poor sanitation of the city and density-related diseases. Higher urban illegitimacy rates may also have affected infant mortality. In the 19th century, national levels of marital fertility were generally not related to levels of infant mortality. As the decline in marital fertility progressed more and more countries showed a positive relationship between infant mortality and marital fertilty, which became increasingly significant as high mortality areas also preserved high fertility. The relationship between overall fertility and infant mortality is generally positive. The relationship between the timing of infant mortality decline and fertility decline is inconsistent and often weak or negative. Only 3 countries show a strong infant mortality decline before a strong fertility decline, though data is not always adequate. Historical evidence does not confirm that infant mortality decline preceded fertility decline.