Long before I took a professional interest in demography I had noticed a puzzle in the history of my family. Why was it that my wife Sidney and I, born in the 1930s, had seven children (one of whom died) while the families of my father and mother, serious Catholics but born at the turn of the twentieth century, had far fewer? My father’s siblings, ten in all, procreated only seven children from nine marriages, and my mother had just two siblings. She herself had just...
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