One of the preconditions of the fertility transition, as stated by A.J. Coale, is that reproductive decisions must be within the calculus of conscious choice. It is suggested that the change in mentality which leads to family limitation includes “numeracy about children,” a clear notion of what family size ought to be and the awareness of individuals of where they stand with respect to the norm. The article explores the hypothesis that numeracy about children appeared historically in various times and places, and that the conceptualization of family size was a necessary condition for adopting family limitation.

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