Population Research and Policy Review 18: 323–338, 1999.
© 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Fertility decline in a US population favoring large families:
A hazard-model analysis of the effect of sib death on Amish
LINDA EBERST DORSTEN
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, SUNY-Fredonia, Fredonia, New York, USA
Abstract. This paper uses proportional hazards techniques and population data from a direc-
tory of the Old Order Amish of the Lancaster, PA settlement. It examines the effect of death of
the immediately prior sibling on the risk of childbearing for up to 11 children. Prior research
typically has pooled data for maternal cohorts. In contrast, separate models are estimated for
each maternal cohort. The results are based on all reported ﬁrst marriages of Amish women
born between 1884–1973 (N = 4066). Hazard models run separately for children of each
birth order reveal that net of maternal age and length of the prior birth interval (and other
statistical and design controls), the death of the prior sib signiﬁcantly increases the risk of a
subsequent birth for the lower birth orders. Separate models by maternal cohort show that sib
death increases the risk primarily for later cohorts. The pattern of effects from child mortality
and other variables suggests changes in fertility behavior among the Amish, who have strong,
traditional norms opposing contraception and favoring large families.
Keywords: Fertility, Infant mortality, Child mortality, Ethnic group, Amish, Maternal cohort
Understanding the determinants of the pace of fertility continues to capture
the research attention of scholars, many of whom employ data from high
fertility populations outside the United States. The present paper examines
fertility behaviors of the Old Order Amish, a US population with strong,
traditional norms opposing contraception and favoring large families. Similar
to the Hutterites, another Anabaptist group familiar to scholars of population,
the Amish have much higher levels of fertility than the general US population.
Ericksen et al. (1979: 260) calculate an expected fertility of 8.1 for an Amish
woman marrying at age 20, compared to an expectation of 2.8 for American
women (for the cohort born between 1920–1924).
One area of ongoing interest in studies of the determinants of fertility is
whether survival status of a prior sibling affects decisions about subsequent
childbearing. For example, Knodel (1982) ﬁnds an increased risk of child-
bearing from child mortality in 18th and 19th century German populations for