Abstract

The effect of venereal disease on black fertility is estimated for six Deep South states around 1940. Several relevant control variables are introduced, including characteristics of the socioeconomic environment and measures of possible diffusion processes that might have affected the relationship between venereal disease and fertility. The objective is to identify as precisely as possible the net effect of venereal disease on black fertility. The analyses are based on 395 counties in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. The results indicate that venereal disease was significantly related to black fertility, but that the relationship was considerably weaker than some have suggested (most notably, Wright and Pirie, 1984). Furthermore, the revised estimates suggest that venereal infections probably accounted for around 28 percent of the historical decline in black fertility between 1875–1880 and 1935–1940. I conclude that the black fertility transition was not unicausal and that explanations for the black experience should be sought among the same causative forces considered for other populations.

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