The Journal of Economic History


Land Availability and Fertility in the United States, 1760–1870

Morton Owen Schapiroa1

a1 Assistant Professor of Economics, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267.


The decline in U.S. fertility rates, beginning in the latter part of the eighteenth century, is examined within a general model of fertility determination. The ability of land availability measures to explain the variation in components of the crude birth rate is tested using a pooled regression technique. A set of crude birth rate predictions for rural areas of 23 northern states during the period 1760–1870 is produced and compared with other estimates. It is concluded that the availability of land was a critical factor in determining the demand for children and, ultimately, the fertility rate, across states and over time.