Human capital and fertility transition in 19th and 20th century Bohemia: Jews and Gentiles

Jana Vobecka, Vienna Institute of Demography

Post-1848, Central European societies went through accelerated changes in political arrangements, citizen rights and in the economy. Human capital played a major role in driving these changes, as processes of urbanisation, epidemiological transition and demographic transition were closely linked to both societal and human capital advances. These processes had an unequal pace across countries but more importantly within countries across different social and ethnic groups. The case of Jews and gentiles in the second half of the 19th century is particularly interesting as two historically distinctively developing social groups were confronted with similar chances for development for the first time ever. What these open chances meant for human capital and fertility transition of Bohemian Jews and gentiles is the main focus of this paper. We use data from vital statistics and population censuses between 1857 and 1938 to show that Jews were much more avant-garde in human capital ascent and fertility transition. But during the interwar period in the 20th century, Jewish demographic behaviour became increasingly similar to that of the majority population in the same socio-economic class. The Jewish demographic avant-garde thus blended into a „higher social-class“ avant-garde. The paper presents a detailed study of these processes, their timing and the search for key historical and social interdependencies.

Presented in Poster Session 3