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In order to obtain a satisfactory basis for measuring the frequency of births we must proceed upon the principle that the number of births does not depend upon the entire population of a country, but upon the number of women of child-bearing age. In tropical regions women reach this period as early as the age of nine or ten, in the south of Europe at the age of thirteen to fifteen, and in countries of the north temperate zone at the age of seventeen or eighteen. When the period is soonest reached it also is soonest ended. In warm climates women are grandmothers at the age of thirty; in colder climates they sometimes bear children at the age of fifty. However, the real period of fertility is not to be estimated by the extreme limits sometimes reached. The women who bear children at the age of sixteen are not the ones that bear them at the age of fifty, and we cannot base our estimates upon exceptional cases. If for the countries of Middle Europe the child-bearing age may be considered to extend normally from the age of eighteen to the age of forty, then we have twenty-two "year classes capable of bearing children, which, as the age statistics of these countries show, constitute 165 out of every 1000 inhabitants. If we use this percentage, without making allowance for unfruitful marriages (about 14 per cent of the whole number), then it follows that if two children are born to every woman between the ages of eighteen and forty, there will be 15 births yearly for each 1000 inhabitants. If three children are born to each woman, there will be 22.5 births ; if four, there will be 30 births; if five, 37.5 births; if six, 45 births; and so on. Remembering that out of every four children, hardly three live to attain their majority, we may lay it down that a birth rate of 30, which means that four children are born to each woman, may be considered a fair average. Then a birth rate of less than 30 is to be considered low, and one materially greater than 30 is high or even excessive. In this estimate,
" of women
1 In the United States in 1900 the females between the ages of eighteen and thirty-nine, inclusive, constituted 177 in every 1000 of the total population.
however, it is always to be remembered that since many women remain unmarried and many others are unfruitful, the actual number of children born to the others must be somewhat greater than our previous figures assume. It is now upon this basis that we must examine the statistics showing the birth rates of different countries.
From 1872 to 1877, including the stillborn, the average number of births each year for each 1000 inhabitants was as follows :
41.7 40.1 38.1 37.1
34.0 32.4 31.6 27.3
Within the German Empire, Württemberg, Saxony, West Prussia, and Posen showed yet higher birth rates, which ranged from 45 to 47; while in Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, and SchleswigHolstein the figures fell as low as 33. France and the German Empire stood at the opposite ends of the table, showing the extraordinary difference of 14.3 in their respective birth rates ; which meant that for every 100 births in France there were 153 in Germany.
During the eighties, when the marriage rate declined, the birth rate showed a considerable decrease in all countries. From 1880 to 1884 the average birth rates stood as follows : 1
38.8 38.7 37.5 34.7
32.4 30.6 30.3 25.8
From 1885 to 1887 the birth rate in France declined still further, to 23.5. The absolute figures make the contrast between
1 For 1900 the figures are as follows :
Hungary Austria Germany Italy
England and Wales
28.7 28.9 26.9 21.4
For Austria the figure here given is the average for the decade 1891 to
1900. - Ev.
France and Germany still more striking, since from 1885 to 1887 there were but 885,000 births in the former country as compared with 1,825,000 in the latter. This meant that Germany had twice as many births as France, although her population at the time was but one fourth larger.1
In general the birth rate is larger among the Germanic peoples than among the Romanic, while among the Slavic races it is still higher than among the Germans, as may be seen in the parts of Germany and Austria inhabited chiefly by Slavs. For
i No figures showing the birth rate are available for the United States. That the birth rate is decreasing, as in Europe, is shown by the following table, which shows the percentages which the number of children under ten years of age bears to the total population.
Still more significant are the following figures showing the number of children under five years of age for every 1000 females from fifteen to forty-nine years of age, inclusive :
Russia only scattered and unreliable data are available; yet such figures as we have, combined with the well-known fact that marriages occur among the peasants at an early age and are exceedingly fruitful, make it very probable that the average birth rate is considerably above forty-five and altogether the highest in Europe. This is confirmed by the following statistics showing the average birth rates in more recent years:
All so-called laws of the frequency of births are untenable. The birth rate does not seem to depend upon the climate, upon differences of class or occupation, upon differences between city and country, or upon the density of the population. Yet it is influenced by national customs and beliefs as well as by changes in economic conditions. Such circumstances as dearness or cheapness of the necessaries of subsistence and the ease or difficulty of securing a livelihood influence the birth rate indirectly, since they affect materially the number of marriages. In recent decades in Württemberg the number of births has varied from 53,000 (in 1854) to 89,000 (in 1876). Further, a reciprocal relation exists between fertility and infant mortality, because, in a vicious circle, high fertility decreases the care given to chil- • dren, while, on the other hand, a high infant mortality gives a motive for more and more births. Of every
1000 deliveries 1011.7 children are born; that is, 1.17 per cent of all deliveries give multiple births, of which, in turn, 99 per cent are births of twins.
Statistics of the stillborn are defective. The usual and correct practice is to include the stillborn in the statistics of births and then of deaths, but in the English returns they are wholly omitted. It frequently happens that children dying soon after birth are included with the stillborn ; while on the other hand, especially in Catholic countries, it must often happen that stillborn are confused with children privately baptized, and are returned as children dying after baptism. In the German Empire
from 1875 to 1884 stillbirths averaged 3.9 per cent of all births, and formed 5.6 per cent of all deaths. At the same period there were 129 male children stillborn for every 100 female, while of every 1000 legitimate births 38 were stillborn, and of every 1000 illegitimate births not less than 51.
A noteworthy fact, first discovered by Süssmilch in the eighteenth century, has occasioned much discussion. Since the time of Süssmilch data gathered concerning 200,000,000 births have placed it beyond all possible doubt. This is the invariable excess of male births over female, in the proportion of 106 to 100, or approximately 17 to 16. The result is that of every 1000 births, not 500, but 515 are of male children and 485 of female. In the German Empire an average for the twelve years from 1872 to 1883 gave a proportion of 106.3 to 100, while the individual years showed variations not ranging below 105.8 or above 106.7. We cannot here enter upon consideration of the further facts that the excess of males is greater with first births than with others, with legitimate than with illegitimate, and with Jews than with Christians. Neither can we consider the various unsuccessful attempts to explain this peculiar fact.
Like marriages, births are unequally distributed among the •various months of the year. The variations are not so marked in the case of births as they are in that of marriages, but they show the same general tendency. If the average number of births be taken as 100 for each day in the year, the statistics of the German Empire from 1872 to 1884 show that the average for February was 107 per day; for September, 105'; for March, 104; for January, 103; for April and October, 100; for November and December, 99; for August, 98; for May, 97; for July, 96; and for June, 95.1
1 In Massachusetts the distribution of births is different. Reduced to a standard of 100, the statistics from 1876 to 1895 showed the following result:
January = 95.6
April = 94.9
= 104.1 August = 106.6 September = 104,4
October = 101.3