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Rainer Mackensen (2000)

Reduction of Offspring: Hans Linde’s Approach, Theory and Method*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 25, 2/2000, p. 291-325, Opladen: Verlag Leske + Budrich, ISSN: 0340-2398

The Study of Hans Linde on "Nachwuchsbeschränkung" (Reduction of Offspring) 1984 has not been evaluated adequately in the literature, in view of its substantial content and innovative approach. The theory presented criticises the concept of "demographic transition" and argues – with original empirical materials – that a reduction of offspring has not been started by the reduction of mortality, late in 19th century, but much earlier.

This review tries to reevaluate Linde's – particularly the empirical – proof of his hypotheses. To do so has been intrigued by the recent colloquia on population research in Germany, where a thorough reexamination of empirical theory-foundations has been demanded. Linde was a propagator of Gunther Ipsen’s population theory from 1933, but also its critique.

The paper examines, after outlining the main thoughts of the book, particularly the statistical tables presented for testing Linde’s hypotheses. The examination concentrates on tables 11 through 15, while former tables contain substantially only simple proportions, derived from officially published statistical data. The later tables, though, make use of Ipsen’s "Aufwuchsziffern" (rearing rate) – a construct similar to Kuczynski’s NRR and invented at the same time. In contrast to NRRs, "Aufwuchsziffern" do not aim at measuring population replacement by calculating daughters’ generations in comparisons with mothers’, but at understanding familiar decisions for – or against – births by referring to the socio-economical status of families. The concept such has not a demographical, but a sociological background; and Linde stresses the individualistic approach of explanation, and confronts it with Ipsen’s collectivistic thinking. Thus the argumentation goes beyond just criticising the theory of demographic transition; it also criticises demography in its analysis of artificial statistical aggregates – as requested by the 1st Bad Homburg colloquium.

As a result, the examination does not find reason to reject Linde's empirical approaches and proofs, in spite of their somewhat speculative procedures. In contrast, it appreciates the socio-historical approach, and the use of available both statistical and idiographic materials, including those from Imhof’s and the Cambridge Group’s investigations, as arguments.

The theses that reduction of offspring must be regarded as a "secular" process over the last few centuries, whereas "demographic transition" must be restricted – for Germany – to the period of 1900 to 1930, in that period superimposed upon the secular process, will thus be open for further discussion. The empirical investigation does not cover the "second" process of births reduction since 1965. For this, Linde proposes a socio-cultural explanation, concentrating on the deinstitutionalization process regarding family and marriage. This process, though, also runs for the last few centuries, and thus covers as well the reducing offspring development – as a dual explanation. It comes, according to Linde, in Germany to an end – and culminates – with the 1977 marriage reform act, so that there remains little reason for marriage (except legal ones), and non revocable decisions in favour of children become a heavy burden on actors. This explanation, though, is only experimental to Linde, and added probably, to the book, only in view of the – then – current public discussion of the topic.

This article is concerned with the concept of the project and its analysis strategy, as well as with the structure of the available data material. Finally, some first results are presented.

* Original title: Nachwuchsbeschränkung: Ansatz, Theorie und Methode bei Hans Linde (full text in German only)

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