A fertility reaction to a historical event: southern white birthrates and the 1954 desegregation ruling

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Science  14 Jul 1978:
Vol. 201, Issue 4351, pp. 178-180
DOI: 10.1126/science.351806


On 17 May 1954 the Supreme Court, in its decision in Brown v. Board of Education, declared de jure segregation of the public schools to be unconstitutional. It is argued here that a consequence of that decision was a decline in childbearing among white Southerners. In the nation as a whole, period fertility rates increased between 1954 and 1955, but in 9 of the 11 former Confederate states they decreased. Further analysis shows that these Southern fertility decreases began about 12 months after the Supreme Court decision. This variation in behavior in reaction to a historical event has important implications for the explanation and prediction of fertility.