Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some Irish Demographic History

Anyone with an interest in Irish demographic history will like this one:

Sourced from the ESRI Family Figures (2010) report. Well worth a read!

I'm interested in singlehood and couple formation in Ireland, and more specifically, the economic and social factors that mediate it. Ireland has some fairly unique historical rates and patterns in this area - nineteenth century (post-famine) was predominantly characterised by remarkably low marriage rates but with very high fertility rates (observed by Joe Lee: Modernisation of Irish Society; 1848-1918). I'm not familiar with any analysis of this.

Here we see the variability in marriage (inc. common law marriages) rates for the 20th century which shows the increase in family formation through the early and mid twentieth century, up to 1980. Now, it seems marriage rates (people aged 25-35) or singlehood rates are returning to the rates of the Victorian era.

I'd be interested to hear you thoughts on this. I'm working on a theory..


Kevin Denny said...

Both Brendan Walsh & Cormac O Grada have worked on Irish demographic history.

Peter Carney said...

clue: what changed for the birth cohort of 1955?


Kevin Denny said...

Good guess, my favourite IV. Then you would expect an interaction with SES. As Colm & I showed O'Malley mattered much more for low SES kids, the high SES kids were going to complete secondary education anyway.

Peter Carney said...

Thanks Kevin. reckon you're right on that one. Might see if i can find some evidence of it.

I'm going to take a look at Walsh and O'Grada musing and see if they've considered it.

Liam metioned that T.Fahey might have done some work on this too so i'll try to dig that out also.

Martin Ryan said...

Do people marry more during times of economic prosperity?

The graphic indicates that the % of single individuals deteriorated rapidly during the 1960's, when Irish GDP growth first began to really take off. The % of single individuals rose rapidly during the 1980's (when GDP growth suffered badly) but doesn't come back down in the late 90's and early 2000's.

Maybe an older age cohort is required for the 90's onwards, as we are told that people are marrying later than ever before over the last couple of decades.

Eoin McLaughlin said...

You should check out the work of Tim Guinnane 'the vanishing Irish', he has done a lot on the post-famine period. He has a different take to the Joe Lee version.

Kevin Denny said...

I have the vague feeling that marriage is pro-cyclical but not sure why. People more likely to make commitments when times are good etc

Alan Fernihough said...

"low marriage rates but with very high fertility rates"

You mean high marital fertility rates? See Guinanne 'VI' and O'Grada et al. (2002?) for an overview of the Irish in the US. Also you should have a look at O'Grada's "Before and After the Famine." I know that Coale demographic group include Irish statistics in their analysis of the European fertility transition. Ireland, as Guinanne says, is very much an outlier in the series. In most counties there appear to be elements of eiter "stopping" or "spacing" at the turn of the 20th century, except for Ireland.

"Do people marry more during times of economic prosperity?"

One could interpret these as "preventative" checks. However, this would be far to simplistic, and grossly incorrect IMO. Rapid social and demographic (i.e migration) change in 20th century Ireland makes it very hard to pin down specific causal mechanisms which lie behind this chart.

Good post Peter, what is your theory?

Peter Carney said...

Martin: I've located a few sources on the topic (HT Kevin) and none of them, from what i can see, have explicitly examined the role economic cyclicality in family formation but it has been implicated, most convincingly in relation to decreasing the age of marriage during the period 46-69 (B.Walsh, 72). Median age of nuptiality for males dropped from 32 to 26 from 1946 to 1969. At the turn of the last century it was 30 and at this one it is 33. Having old ages would be good but i think up to age 35 is still a reasonable range for thinking about this.

Alan: You're right; I meant marital fertility rates. The 'few but large' families is an interesting phenomenon in itself and I'm not sure its been given much attention; undoubtedly an economic issue and an unusual one. Other that that case, however, I'm not so much interested in fertility rates. In relation to finding causal mechanisms, I going to have to disagree.. as well as admit that I don't have a theory as yet. We can always try. For one, I don't agree that 'change' was particularly rapid in Ireland in the early-mid twentieth century - it was significant, limited, and slow in most cases, with emigration an almost constant demographic feature since the previous century. Happy to chat about this stuff with you at some stage..

Liam: I'm not sub-consciously looking for a wife.

Alan Fernihough said...

Fertility and nuptuality rates inter-related. You cannot seperate them. Fertility decisions are/were implicit in the marriage decision. Especially when you consider that Irish marital fertility appeared to fit Louis Henry's classic "natural fertility" theory.