Fertility, social class, gender, and the professional model: statistical explanation and historical significance

Simon Szreter
Published Online:
19 Mar 2015
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 68 Issue 2

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In 2012 Barnes and Guinnane published a revised statistical analysis of the critical evaluation of the official 1911 social class model of fertility decline that was presented in chapter 6 of Szreter's Fertility, class and gender in Britain, 1860–1940 (FCG). They argue that the official model of five ranked social classes is, after all, a satisfactory statistical summary of the fertility variance found among the married couples of England and Wales at the famous 1911 fertility census, and so they conclude that, pace Szreter, the official model provides a satisfactory account of the nation's fertility decline as one of social class differentials. It is acknowledged here that Barnes and Guinnane have deployed superior statistical techniques. However, it is pointed out that FCG identified fundamental problems with the design of the 1911 official model. It was a social evolutionary model privileging male professional occupations, not a modelling of recognized social class theory at the time or since. In FCG it was therefore termed ‘the professional model’. The central historiographical claim of FCG is re‐affirmed: that in order to study fruitfully the historical relationship between social class and fertility decline, an alternative approach is needed which explicitly integrates gender relations with social class.

© Economic History Society 2015

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