The influence of kin proximity on the reproductive success of American couples, 1900-1910

J David Hacker, Jonas Helgertz, Matt A. Nelson, Evan Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children require a large amount of time, effort, and resources to raise. Physical help, financial contributions, medical care, and other types of assistance from kin and social network members allow couples to space births closer together while maintaining or increasing child survival. We examine the impact of kin availability on couples' reproductive success in the early twentieth-century United States with a panel data set of over 3.1 million couples linked between the 1900 and 1910 U.S. censuses. Our results indicate that kin proximity outside the household was positively associated with fertility, child survival, and net reproduction, and suggest that declining kin availability was an important contributing factor to the fertility transition in the United States. We also find important differences between maternal and paternal kin inside the household—including higher fertility among women residing with their mother-in-law than among those residing with their mother—that support hypotheses related to the contrasting motivations and concerns of parents and parents-in-law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2337–2364
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History
  • Sociology


  • fertility decline
  • kinship
  • historical demography


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