Childbearing ‘out there’ In ‘better Britain’: ‘How’ & ‘Why’ the fertility Of New Zealand Pakeha (=British-origin) colonists differed from That Of Their British Victorian Peers

Ian Pool, University of Waikato

From colonisation and first European settlement until the 1980s, migrants to New Zealand were overwhelmingly of British origin. British Isles’ settler numbers in NZ, 2000 in 1840, had reached 60,000 by 1860. Then, over the next two decades, in what were to be peak net inflows over the entire period 1840 (when New Zealand became a colony) to 2000, British settler numbers exploded through massive immigration. With high marriage rates before age 25, the newly-arrived settlers had very different levels of fertility from their later marrying British peers, essentially their “cousins” (TFR, 7.0, 1870s, versus < 5.0 in Britain). But by 1900, later marriage and significant levels of celibacy had halved Pakeha TFRs (3.5). Explaining ‘Why’ the difference c1875 is problematic: were the 1870s’ differences due to selective migration from high fertility British localities, or instead adaptation to New Zealand conditions? Thus were high masculinity ratios or the ‘the chance to get ahead’ crucial local factors? If so, why had fertility levels plummeted by 1900, when masculinity levels remained high and economic conditions were superior? Or is the real clue that colonial reproductive patterns c1875 resembled those of Britain c1800-25 rather than British patterns of the 1870s? But if so, why were there lag effects? The other problem is explaining why the fertility of the colonists dropped so radically over the last decades of the 19th century to resemble British levels. Contraception and abortion played minor roles, even for limitation within marriage; fertility regulation was engineered through the “nuptiality valve” (Engelen and Kok, Population, 2003). A major result of this was a shift from almost universal and early childbearing to complex patterns of reproductive polarisation. Married women continued to have high fertility; the key determinant was who got married.

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Presented in Session 34: Differentital fertility in the past