The primary concern of the thesis is to describe the onset of fertility
decline in Scotland at the level of the lowest unit of aggregation for which
data are published, the civil parish. The purpose behind this concern is
two-fold: to establish a clearer picture of the course of fertility decline in
this country than has been done hitherto; and to create a database as a
'springboard' for further research, in an effort to seek explanations for the
occurrence of a Scottish 'demographic transition'.
The variant of the civil parish demographic data set used is given in
Appendix Tables A 1.1 - A 1.4, in terms of the levels of Im (nuptiality), Ig
(marital fertility), Ih (extra-marital fertility), and If (overall fertility),
over 856 Scottish civil parishes for 1881, 1891, and 1901 These data are
used in chapters 3 to 5 to describe the onset of fertility decline at the
civil parish, or 'local', level, over the whole of Scotland. Against the
background of overall fertility decline, most apparent is the high degree of
local heterogeneity of demographic behaviour which characterised the
'transition' in this country. This is something that studies conducted at
higher levels of aggregation can only gloss over. Thus, it is argued, a
clearer understanding of why the "demographc transiton' occurred is likely
only to be gained through detailed study of a large number of small areas.
The main task of the present study is description, but explanations for the
decline of fertility in this country are also sought. The published data
available on non-demographic variables (such as those for occupation and
church membership used here) are, however, meagre at the level of the
civil parish, and do not match the "sensitivity" of the indices of fertility
and nuptial ity around which the database is built. Consequently, few firm
answers are found. This highlights the need for further research at the
small area level.
Finally, in order to demonstrate that local studies are more likely to
contribute to a clearer understanding of the decline of fertility in Scotland
than summary analyses, a fairly detailed investigation of the 'rural' county
of East Lothian is done. Here, it is evident that county level indicators of
fertility can be very misleading. Although the county of East Lothian
limited its marital fertility fairly early on, at the civil parish level a
much more complex mosaic of experience pertained.
Overall then, the thesis argues that more locally focussed, detailed
research, is likely to be the most valuable, if not the only route, by which
clear answers to the 'why' of fertility decline in Scotland are likely to be
obtained. The data base created in preparation for the thesis is a
contribution to that end.