This study relies on IPUMS samples of the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses, aggregate census data, and the timing of state laws criminalizing abortion to construct regional estimates of marital fertility in the United States and estimate correlates of marital fertility. The results show a significant lag between the onset of marital fertility decline in the nation’s northeastern census divisions and its onset in western and southern census divisions. Empirical models indicate the presence of cultural, economic, and legal impediments to the diffusion of marital fertility control and illustrate the need for more inclusive models of fertility decline.

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