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It is well known among demographic researchers that a rise in mortality often precipitates a rise in fertility. Replacement strategy is a term used to define the act of purposefully replacing a child who has died. It is a natural biological and emotional response. In some cases the strategy has been used as insurance in anticipation of child deaths. Parents might “hoard” children, particularly in societies with high mortality. Conversely, in families where multiple child deaths have occurred, a family might employ birth control methods in order to avoid the risk of the emotional toll of further losses.21 Sometimes the replacement effect is caused by a shortened breastfeeding period as a result of infant death, which in turn causes fertility to return postpartum. This phenomenon has been observed universally, particularly after major traumatic world events, such as the Holocaust and World War II.

Knodel, a sociologist at the Population Studies Center in Michigan, explains that the replacement effect is a fertility response, voluntary or involuntary, while replacement strategy is the deliberate conception of a child to replace one who had died. In terms of pure numbers Knodel acknowledges that replacement is rarely complete as children might die after parents are biologically incapable of procreating. When parents employ the method of having extra children as a means of insurance, they run the risk, demographically speaking, of having fewer children than they desire (or than what is needed to support the community, as observed in the Middle Ages during and after the plague). Population strategists argue that replacement strategy is a more reliable means of ensuring that the desired size of the family remains stable. Further, some demographic researchers argue that there are cultural differences between fertility strategies. During periods of economic or marital distress, fertility is often delayed. Therefore, replacement strategies are not always a reliable indicator of demographic trends.22

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