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Modernization Before Industrialization: Cultural Roots of the Demographic Transition in France

Guillaume Blanc ()
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Guillaume Blanc: Brown University

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Abstract: This research identifies the origins of the early demographic transition in eighteenth-century France. A turning point in history and an essential condition for development, the demographic transition first took hold in France more than a hundred years before any other country—and this event remains one of the ''big questions of history'' because of its timing and limited data availability. My results suggest that secularization accounts for the decline in fertility. I document an important and early process of dechristianization with never-before-used data on religious beliefs across time and space. Using census data, I show a strong association between religiosity and the timing of the transition. Finally, I draw on a novel dataset crowdsourced from publicly available genealogies to study individuals at the time. In order to establish a causal interpretation, I control for time-varying unobservables with fixed effects, study the effect of religiosity before and after secularization with difference-in-differences, and exploit the choices of second-generation migrants to account for unobserved institutional factors. These findings reveal that changes in preferences and the transition away from tradition may shape development.

Keywords: secularization; fertility; development; modernization (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-11-15
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo, nep-gro and nep-his
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02318180v8
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