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Suicide and Fertility: A Study of Moral Statistics Author(s): Emile Durkheim, H. L.

Sutcliffe, John Simons Source: European Journal of Population / Revue Europenne de Dmographie, Vol. 8, No. 3 (1992), pp. 175-197 Published by: Springer Stable URL: Accessed: 21/10/2010 15:43
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Journal European North-Holland

of Population

8 (1992)



Suicide and fertility:

a study of moral
Emile Durkheim


Translated byHL.


The paper that follows was originally published in 1888, and has been specially translated from the French for this issue of the journal. The author, Emile Durkheim is often described as one of the founding fathers of sociology, and his (1858-1917) contribution to that discipline has certainly been immense. In this paper, which is
characteristic the suicide of rate his work, and the he birth claims rate to demonstrate for the D?partements an inverse of relationship France, and between to explain more

why this relationship was

believe attention that Durkheim's than it has yet

to be expected. We
has much from received population

had the paper translated because we

significance, scientists. and merits



Like many scholars of his day, Durkheim was preoccupied with the issue of social
solidarity. Concerned with what he and many others saw as the malaise of modern

European societies, he believed that its roots were in the way social solidarity had been weakened in these societies in the process of their development. The interests of individual and society had diverged. Progress towards moral individualism had been
undermined One index towards and anomie. egoism by pressures the malaise of was, Durkheim, argued the suicide rate, the for suicide

implied a complete disintegration

1888 paper marked the start of

of the bond between

empirical study of

individual and society. The

suicide, result of which

a major

was his famous monograph Suicide, published in 1897. In this he assembled evidence of social differentials in the suicide rate to support the proposition that it varied inversely with the degree of integration of the social group. The book (published in in 1952) had a profound effect on the development of sociology, and English
continues to have a dominant influence on the study of suicide.

Why should the suicide rate rise when the birth rate declines? Durkheim argues that the greater the vigour and unity of the family?as manifested in a "healthy" birth
rate and a low rate of marital dissolution?the more it serves as a protection against

Correspondence Tropical Medicine,

to: J. Simons, 99 Gower

Centre Street,

for Population London WC1E

Studies, 6AZ, UK.



of Hygiene




- Elsevier



B.V. All




E. Durkheim


and fertility

suicide. "If suicide increases when the birth rate declines, it is because these two phenomena are both due in part to a decline in family sentiment." For Durkheim, essential to solidarity in society at large. In domestic solidarity?familism?was another paper he writes: "... the family is a source [foyer] of morality, energy and a word, a school of life which cannot kindness, a school of duty, love and work?in lose its role" (quoted in Lukes, 1973, p. 186). Durkheim's other major books were The Division of Labour in Society (1893), The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life His work is now the subject of a substantial literature, inwhich his ideas have (1912). been much analyzed and elaborated, and often cogently criticized. A critical biogra phy by Lukes {Emile Durkheim?His Life and Work: a Historical and Critical Study.
Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1973) provides a comprehensive review and assessment.

John Simons Former joint-editor of the European Journal of Population

Suicide and fertility: a study of moral

Owing to advances in demography,

the population question has at

last emerged from the logical discussions inwhich the economists had confined it for too long. Today, it is no longer enough to discuss the abstract principle of the struggle for life or the likelihood that produc
its upper be limit. Such an approach would fairly soon attain at all for, al the problem consideration of of advancing incapable it is not the only law is a general the law of competition one, though of social facts, and to solve the highly complex which governs problem tion may be to condemn oneself of this axiom alone would by means population than could be more to a partial solution. Also, pointless nothing on the possible of the population and the development pondering in the distant since the answer depends of consumption future, objects on know can neither a thousand the observer which and one circumstances nor predict. studies what exists before Science seeking already to divine the future and can infer the future only on the basis of the The only way present. or detrimental is beneficial in which is found the social and in whether population deciding to observe to a people is therefore in which this phenomenon the societies occurs, of to compare fact one elects them. to observe must be chosen with

familiar crease the the

societies reverse


discernment. As a rule, it is assumed that the happiness of individuals and of societies grows hand in hand with the increase in the quantity

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

111 which consumes more in

of objects need only

consumed. ascertain

It is posited whether or not

that a society the trends

is happier, and it is therefore believed that, to solve this problem, one

in consumption increase to which vary if needs they are

accordance with those in the birth rate [1]l. But this is to forget how
relative increase remains happiness in like the same. is. It matters or greater This little that resources The truths degree measure. of the

satisfied is no greater if at the same time they widen

is one the economists have

in scope; the gap

of elementary psychology that Social happiness is a by and large forgotten. on a multitude which resultant of causes. The increase in depends common resources and private is only one of these causes and very not even one of the most often of them. For a society to important it is neither nor always necessary feel healthy, for it to use a adequate a lot of meat; but the great deal of coal or consume of all development must be regular, its functions harmonious and well-proportioned. In fact, we do not actually have any criterion for evaluating the a society with any accuracy. But it is of happiness of to degree possible make we social expresses ills in figures, the relative number of suicides. Without namely at this juncture on the psychology of this phenomenon, it is dwelling certain that the regular increase in the number of suicides always a serious betokens disturbance in the organic conditions of society. For to increase acts these abnormal in number, the reasons for must have increased in number too and, at the same time, suffering the organism's be therefore less healthy must power of resistance sure that societies in which than societies in which also have declined. is more One can suicide are frequent thus have a method have a comparative evaluation of a relatively at our disposal its state of health or sickness, for well-known fact which

it is rarer. We

with which

can be established that the development of the birth rate is accompa nied by a rise in the number one will be entitled of suicides, to infer from this that too high a birth rate is a morbid a social phenomenon, ill. If, on the other the reverse were to be true, the found hand, conclusion would be implied. opposite A number would where of facts seem to which to confirm attention demographers the former of is too dense,
in the Notes section

to tackle the much debated problem of population.

If it

In countries

the population
refer to notes

drawn already two hypotheses. are numerous suicides these



in square


at the end of

the paper.

178 are in seen

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility



to decline of a

in number safety be

whenever relieves

emigration, society of

func this


the manner


therefore, them with rate


[2]. On
could which

the basis of

these observations
as proven


by statistics. and extensive, pre

is not my intention to dispute these facts, but I would

contrary facts, are no less numerous low birth rate

like to compare

and which limit their scope. In other words,

encourages the same cisely this law, then suicide, result. to interpret an excessively

if an excessively high birth


It is the purpose of this study to set out the facts which demonstrate

I. Suicide


the birth


in the various

countries are

of Europe placed then in one seeks to


countries with most If the European suicides the least in another, and and those with are

if one


the average birth rate in these two kinds of society,

as follows:
the most suicides Suicides per 1,000,000 inhabitants Births per 1,000


inhabitants (1865-76)
30.9 25.7 30.4 38.5 38.7 39.2 30.4 30.3 35.5 33.3

Denmark France Switzerland Austria Bavaria Sweden Norway England Mean

(1866-75) (1871-75) (1876) (1873-77)

Prussia (1871-75)
(Cisleithan) (1871-76) (1871-75) (1866-73) and Wales (1871-76)

267 150 196 133 122 90 81 74 70 131



the fewest

suicides 52 67 35 31 31 17 25 34 36 41.7 32.1 35.6 37.1 34.5 35.7 30.2 35.1 35.7

Hungary (1864-65) Belgium (1866-75) Netherlands (1869-72) Italy (1864-76) Finland (1869-76) Spain (1866-70)
Romania Scotland Mean (?) (?)

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

179 are



in countries


the most




births for every 1,000 inhabitants, there are 35.7 in countries with the fewest suicides. This difference is admittedly not very substantial, and if this was all the proof we had in support of our thesis, we should be
able to acknowledge only a remote and vague relation between suicide

and the birth rate. Yet there is a preliminary point which must not be neglected. One is bound to attach greater importance to itwhen one
reflects that the innumerable conditions low birth rate is at most all the only one case among on which the development of suicide depends. even at this stage, that, of all these many remarkable, rate should single itself out so clearly. To appre

It is thus highly the birth influences, in mind

ciate the true value of this first piece of evidence,

it should be borne

in the first group, the large that, in some of the countries not due to, an excessively is certainly of suicides number low birth rate, is certainly but to an excessively the case where high birth rate. This The mere presence is concerned. of this very prolific Germany country raises the average birth rate appreciably. in the first of our two groups are removed, if Prussia and Bavaria the result is as follows: Indeed,

Countries Countries

with most with fewest

suicides. suicides.

Mean Mean

birth birth

rate: rate:

31.7. 35.7.

If, despite somewhat the above what we

the presence general table, one. is also And


this disruptive





a low birth rate on suicide


is still apparent,

it is because

it is a

from whom we have borrowed Morselli, to acknowledge this, though he declines

to explain it.He calls for it to be given closer scrutiny [3] and this is
shall endeavour to do.


first step is doubly

instructive. While

providing us with
of our

it It in

though preliminary admittedly imperfect proof hypothesis, to look for the elements shows us where of a more complete proof. a very high birth rate nor in the countries neither is clearly with

those where

it is simply healthy that we will find the facts we require.

the birth rate tends to encourage in the former, rather than our field of observation in the others, is not varied prevent suicide; turn to a society therefore in which the mean birth enough. We must rate is low. France meets this condition only too well.


E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

IL Suicide and vital growth in the French D?partements The birth rate is often measured by dividing the annual number of births, after subtracting the still-born (So), by the total population figure (N). This produces what is termed the crude birth rate.
However population capable this is extremely procedure imperfect, a large number includes of citizens who since the general are not, or not yet, the children and the aged; and since they are a comparison the country, of the throughout they would appear to reduce the birth

of reproducing, distributed unequally


on the basis of the birth rate is thus distorted. In places


they are most

rate figure because they increase the denominator N in the fraction So/N. This is why it is preferable, where possible, to calculate the birth rate by eliminating all those elements incapable of reproduction
from the N factor, in other words, by dividing the annual number of

births by the population of childbearing age (from 15 to 50 years for


But what
figure, and

is obtained by this method

this the is not what life of interests us for

is rather the mean

the moment. the manner

we this

For what in which

wish to study is the birth rate in the context of its social function of
maintaining society. births taken be have either Clearly, are into


is performed

cannot be assessed on the basis of the birth

these to be intended account. to fill, in other A particular words, level of

the gaps figure alone; also have the deaths, reproductive whether the numerous. rate?and expressed

activity may losses which In other this

strong to be made

the socially words, is the only one which matters to us?can in terms of mortality. A prolific but one society,

on depending are more or less good useful effect of the birth only be in which

or weak


is also very high, is not healthier than one inwhich the birth

rate is also lower. This but where the death is why we are to compare the suicide in the different French going figure D?parte not with ments the birth rate as such, whether crude or specific, but mean excess with the ratio of natural results from the increase, which is lower

of births over deaths,

termed advantage D?partement to disrupt vital of our growth. not taking to another,

to the deaths. This

increase account the obvious thus

is what has so aptly been

also has movements would the great from one merely be



of migratory effect of which


E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

181 en

In the Compte




de la justice



into six groups (1880), Mr Yvern?s divided the D?partements according to the frequency of the annual suicides there between 1830
1880 was seek to ascertain what [4]. Let us therefore in each of these six groups over the same the average vital or a very similar


period. I am taking this as calculated by Mr Bertillon years of this century (1801-1869) [5].
Also, calculations since the first of below. these six groups includes only

for the first 69

one D?parte

ment, namely Seine, I have combined itwith the following one in the

E. 182 Durkheim / Suicide and fertility

Ist group (from 39 to 28 annual suicides per 100,000 inhabitants) annual excess of births


per thousand deaths (1801-1869)

Seine 2.4 0.7 2.6 1.5 growth 1.9 Seine-et-Oise Seine-et-Marne Marne Oise Mean 2.6




21 to 17 annual 3.6





Seine-Inf?rieure Aisne 4.3 2.1

Aube 2
Eure-et-Loir Var Mean growth 2.4 0.3

Illrd Eure


(from -0.6 4.5

16 to 12 annual





[6] Charente-Inf?rieure Vaucluse 2.9 Basses-Alpes Bouches-du-Rh?ne Pas-de-Calais Ardennes Meuse C?te-d'Or Indre-et-Loire Dr?me Somme Rh?ne Yonne Loiret Mean 5.6 3.5 5.8 2.2 3.7 3.4 growth 3.49 3.7 2.8 2.5 6 5.6



TVth group Doubs Jura Haute-Sa?ne Dordogne Cher Indre Ni?vre 6.2 5.9 5.1


11 to 5 annual





2.7 4.7 3.4 7.8

Deux-S?vres Tarn-et-Garonne

4.8 0.6

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility inhabitants) annual excess


?Vth group


11 to 5 annual




(cont.) of births


per thousand deaths (1801-1869)

Gironde Is?re Maine-et-Loire Saone-et-Loire 3.9 Mayenne Haute-Marne 3.4 3.6 5.6 2.1 5.5

Calvados [6] H?rault 4

Lot-et-Garonne Orne Sarthe Manche Charente 3.4 2.1 2.3 6.1 4.7 8.3 0.3



Nord 7
Corr?ze Loire Aude Pyr?n?es-Orientales 6.4 Vosges Ard?che Landes 7.2 4.6 4.9 6.6 Haute-Vienne


Basses-Pyr?n?es Vend?e 6.2 Vienne Finist?re 5.6

C?tes-du-Nord 5 2.8 Ille-et-Vilaine Loire-Inf?rieure Morbihan Allier Ain Hautes-Alpes Gard Mean growth 4.4


5.7 5.7 2.3 3.5 5.5 4.4

Vth group Corse Creuse Aveyron Loz?re 6.2 6.3

(from 4 to 2 annual





5.6 5.9 5.9 5.5

Hautes-Pyr?n?es Cantal 3.8 Haute-Loire

Ari?ge 6.3
Tarn Haute-Garonne Gers 1 4.4 5.4

184 E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

Vth group

(from 4 to 2 annual







annual excess of births (Average) thousand deaths (1801-1869)

Puy-de-D?me Mean growth 3.6 4.8


These gradual movements tions facts

tables increase

show as

that mean the from suicide

natural rate

growth displays decreases. These last with that but

a smooth two no these



are found

or exceptions. We to one in inverse proportion vary we have thus compared Admittedly, causes had to which the phenomena

the first group to the can therefore conclude another. nothing compared a sufficient the for

interrup two social Yet this

averages. are

procedure had to be adopted in view of the multitude

local effects ments. to be neutralised by taking if instead of confining of the above tables,

of random and
Their subject. of D?parte


analyse our conclusion. In fact, we which

Furthermore, the contents for France have

ourselves result the

we to averages, confirms merely

as a whole, the considered, lie above we find

or rather ratio and

of mean

82 D?partements natural increase



is 4 per thousand (4.03 to be precise).

If we

try to ascertain

how many D?partements in each of the five groups,

Annual suicides

how many below the average are made that they up as follows:
mean (%) Above growth mean (%)

Below growth

per 100,000 inhabitants 1st group Und group Illrd group iVth group Vth group 39-28 100 0 21-1780 20 16-12 32 68 11-540 60 42 13 77

the greatest the groups with Hence, those D?partements whose almost only is gradually the ratio Then reversed, increases. The same might also

number growth as the


suicides of

include the mean. suicides manner.

is below number

be expressed

in the following

Of the 26 D?partements with the greatest number of suicides (1st, Ilnd and Illrd groups), there are 20 where vital growth is below the

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

185 to or to the

average; exceeds the

and of the


the 41 D?partements 25, or more

whose than


corresponds belong


IVth and Vth groups, namely those inwhich the number of suicides is

III. Reverse To check


let us try the reverse the above Let us result, procedure. to the size of their vital growth the D?partements according classify the average seek to ascertain rate for each of suicide and subsequently the groups period growth. Compte for each number course, evidence of the and thus established; not the suicide rate used is an average figure vital In his limits

taken over the five years from 1872 to 1876. Admittedly,

this is a short

to the one used to determine similar sufficiently these are the only figures available to us. Unfortunately, us only the upper Mr Yvern?s and lower gives general, of

the groups he singles out; he does not indicate the average for each D?partement of suicides Of (over the same period). we calculated it for ourselves; have could but the since to be little need there seemed above and below tallies, given fact and somewhat task. Moreover, in view intimidating since the beginning of the century, has suicide that, more than growth, much is less need to there regularly rate over a very extensive the annual period.

for this mammoth

developed determine


shall divide the D?partements

value of their mean growth.

into four groups on the basis of

the relative

186 E. Durkheim -


and fertility

Ist group




to 2.5?20

D?partements) Suicides per million per year,


Eure Calvados Var Lot-et-Garonne Tarn-et-Garonne Seine-et-Oise Gers Orne Oise Charente-Inf?rieure Bouches-du-Rh?ne Aube Eure-et-Loir Gironde Manche Yonne Ain Charente Seine Indre-et-Loire Average suicides 255.1 147.5 221.2 84.5 74 388.8 61.8 96.9 407.2 160.2 202.9 284.8 273.5 122.5 84.5 219.3 128.2 164.3 400.3 213.2 199.5

Und Marne



from 2.5

to 4.5?26

D?partements) 380.6 383.5

Seine-et-Marne Jura Haute-Marne Dordogne Loiret Ille-et-Vilaine C?te-d'Or Basses-Alpes Lot Sarthe Hautes-Alpes Somme Seine-Inf?rieure Maine-et-Loire Puy-de-D?me Loir-et-Cher Meuse C?tes-du-Nord Cantal

141.7 115.3 206.7 69.2 187.4 195.2 58.9 141.7 115.3 206.7 155.3 99.2 219.3

212.8 52.7 61.2

E. Durkheim / Suicide and fertility 187

Und group (growth from 2.5 to 4.5?26 D?partements) (cont.) Suicides per million per year,

inhabitants, 1872-1876 Mayenne H?rault Haute-Garonne Aisne Morbihan Vaucluse A ver age suicides 157.6 64.8 208.7 65.9 297.9 82.7 78.1

Illrd Landes



from 4.5

to 6?24

D?partements) 83.1

Haute-Sa?ne Haute-Vienne Basses-Pyr?n?es Deux-S?vres Finist?re Doubs Aude Tarn Haute-Loire Is?re Gard Aveyron Dr?me Vienne Pas-de-Calais Sa?ne-et-Loire Allier Loire-Inf?rieure Rh?ne Hautes-Pyr?n?es Ni?vre Loz?re Ardennes A verage suicides

118.1 101.1 64.2 111.0 108.2 113.9 74.8 55.0 45.9 97.9 114.7 39.7 162.2 93.5 146.8 144.7 83.9 76.0 166.8 39.9 94.1 54.6 166.7 98.2

IVth group Corr?ze Corse Indre Ari?ge Creuse Vosges


from 6 to 8.3?12

D?partements) 69.3 28.6 66.2 103.6 30.8 69.2

E. 188 Durkheim


and fertility (cont.) Suicides per million per year,

Ist group


from 0.6

to 2.5?20



Pyr?n?es-Orientales Nord 126.2 76.0

Vend?e Cher Loire Average suicides 78.3

84.6 104.9 70.8

This reveals

thus provides procedure as clearly the inverse just in each cease of the groups,

confirmation relation we see



earlier and



between that suicide we

growth declines obtain


The group with the lowest growth is the one with the highest suicide
rate and,

as growth the follow of

If we

to confine


to averages,

ing results. For the 82 D?partements


the annual



suicides for every 1,000,000 inhabitants is 138.9. To begin with, we note that, of the 36 D?partements included in the Illrd and IVth
groups, rate of growth, the highest i.e. those with the only five exceed even these five exceptions are all found And in for suicides. average in the fourth. the third group, not a single one being a stage further. But we can take this analysis

The maximum number of suicides is 407.2 (Oise) and the minimum

the difference Let us divide between these two extreme (Corse). in each of the four groups, drawn into four parts, and establish figures to the level of growth, how many D?partements there up according are in which of suicides the number in which exceeds 300, how many 28.6 the number between ranges between 100 and 28.6. The 300 result and 201, is shown between 200 and 101 table: and in the following

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

Total number




the number

D?partements of suicides

are ranges

there where between:

of D?partements

Ist group -0.3 to 2.5 3

7 20 5



Und group Illrd group IVthgroup

2.6 to 4.4 4.6 to 6.5 6.5 to 8.3

2a 0 0 5 Total

6 0 0 13

8 26 10 13 11 24 4 8 12 28 82 36


top two

in the class.

One concerned


only [7].

to glance









IV. Suicide the





to the degree

of urbanisation




relationship It is well known

suicides countries, areas. "From 1873 and that the 15,895

frequent to 1878, there were in rural areas 18,470 suicides in towns. If the annual derived from these figures average 123.48 suicides inhabitants." in rural be areas and 221.44 suicides

apparent in France, more are much that

is also

in other as also

ways. in many other European in towns than in rural

is compared with the respective population

there were towns per million

figures for 1876, we find


was it may correct, supposition lower than towns is considerably


if our previous that vital growth in anticipated in rural areas. And the this is indeed [8] Consequently,

the county towns in each D?partement, it is that not only is the increase minimal, but mortality exceeds apparent the birth rate. In 1880, and this is a phenomenon true for holds which towns had more than births. deaths every year, 71 out of 86 county are the 15 exceptions to the rule: The following observes solely

If one



M?zi?res, 5 Tulle, 231

Ch?teauroux, Saint-Etienne, 43 266

190 62 39

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility


Lille, 658
Tarbes, 2 Perpignan, La Rochesur-Yon,

Limoges, 57 Epinal, 4 P?rigueux, 3 The total gain in these 15 towns is 1,758, whereas
71 others Where reaches the the enormous and total urban

the deficit in the


figure of 13,641. are concerned, rural populations

national statistics provide us the following estimates

for 1884:

Urban population (including all settlements with over 2,000 inhabi tants): 13,400,000 inhabitants Rural population: 24,500,000 inhabitants The first of these ismore than half the second, so that its growth should be equal to over half the growth of the latter. In fact, it is only
one ninth of it. Indeed in the same year, 1884, the increase is:




Rural population: 70,661

In other words, if the first figure is given are than a value of 100, the second

would equal not 200, but 875.

of if these two populations Lastly, rate alone, rather the birth compared growth, from the the results standpoint would be

similar. Hence,

in 1861 [9]:
the birth the birth rate was rate was population

The birth rate for Seine was 32.1

For For other rural towns, areas, 34.5 38.7 growth of the towns and rural


this unequal

areas has been known about for a long time. Maurice Block [10] believes he can explain it by the fact that people get married younger
in rural understand difference have areas than an in towns. interval of how Apart of a from the fact that it is hard to a can produce such few years we two populations, the comparison shows the and that suicide growth

in the growth made between just

these vital

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

191 is of a different

decline order

in growth and depends

whose is a phenomenon importance causes. on more moral deep-seated

V. Vital growth and suicide by professions

It is well-known marked their sions taken influence influence influence as read on that on the various of sometimes professions is thus good reason the population also. have a very to ascertain



the growth


it is not known in sufficient detail how individual profes

that to commit the tendency the profession with and it can nevertheless suicide, the least number of suicides be is

farming and the ones with

professions. out it being none Italy the that Commerce to allot

the highest suicide rate are the liberal

lie somewhere in between, with industry a precise to them; commerce would place possible to be slightly more at risk than industry. It is in less appear on suicide of the professions been studied the influence has

most closely. Here,

then, is the table drawn up by Morselli

Number for every of suicides 1,000,000 in each occupation individuals


Property Production Industry Commerce

113.5 of raw materials 56.7 246.5 324.3 Law 217.8 25.0

154.7 Transport Public administration Religion Medicine Education Fine Arts Arts 45.3 163.3 and Teaching 94.0 618.3


and sciences

Army 404.1





are very


[12], more

professions providing are approximately these relationships we will find an is concerned, growth

few among among farmers, in commerce, the liberal with among people an enormous We may assume that contingent. the same inverse in France. Where vital relationship.



Similarly, according
aside domestic staff,

to official French
it will be seen that,


[13], and leaving

a family of


192 farmers

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility


consists the

of 3.53 of In

persons; farmers a word,

among are over the

industrialists, one sixth



is only 2.98; 2.73 among merchants

Hence, the liberal versa. families

and 1.74 in the liberal

larger where

professions. men in

than those of industrialists, and over one fifth larger than those of
professions. professions

people commit suicide the most

rate, and vice

are also those with

the lowest birth

VI. Conclusion

Now that we have established the law, it remains to interpret it. The first conclusion to emerge from the foregoing is that the birth
rate social Since chooses is a pathological to explain one when it is too low. However phenomenon a sign of a it is, as we have seen, always suicide, and can only malaise increase if this malaise itself increases. a low birth rate and an increased to suicide consis tendency and the in ascribing of the abnormal rate

tently go hand in hand as we have just indicated, we are justified in

them as two phenomena of a similar kind regarding to the former the universally morbid acknowledged latter. Through the parallelism of their development, nature of the one been reveals the abnormal nature of that It has harm and alleged by many sociologists too character

the other. low a birth

spells harm and sickness for society. This


study shows that it spells

as well. Not only is a society which for individuals sickness and more its own of holding stronger regularly capable its individual rival societies; members also have more chance against are more and resistant. Refer of survival. Their organisms vigorous a poor birth rate, Mr Bertillon with states that they ring to countries put into savings, generation disastrous But, rate. On into capital, [14]. It is clear such an investment pointed out what from would what have has been already part of been the future said how

is for all and it is not

as we the


sundry. our intention

to maintain

that this relationship

a contrary, level which

is identical in each step on the scale of the birth

rate rises it is probable that when the birth a cause is too high, it once of becomes beyond again a society where reason. for another the population In suicides, though more too fast, the fight for survival becomes is increasing cut-throat

and individuals find it easier to turn their backs on a life which has

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility


become these be There certain birth

too much


two hypotheses that the birth forgotten is no limits: rate. for such for thing

a struggle. can easily rate

Although apparently be reconciled. Indeed, is a social and therefore which property life there

contradictory, not it should a living fact. indefi is good area on

as an organic of

nitely and absolutely. Every biological development

all phenomena

is healthy within

is a normal

either side of which they become pathological. This is also true of the
we have established; of the relationship the meaning now explain it. but what of its cause? Having it, we must interpreted certain the birth rate curve falls as is it that, at least within How limits, So much the suicide Clearly, the decline But what As Mr to either rate these are rises and vice versa? in the number one or more of suicides common and causes. two facts, the increase have in the birth rate, must out somewhere, causes.

they? Bertillon points organic or


is always

a symptom itself

of an organism which
which suicide

in disequilibrium; but this disequilibrium may be due

social and Sometimes it is the being

is tainted, its functions being distorted and impaired while

it is the is not



is healthy, sometimes itself environment In reality, it is highly probable normal. that there is no are not both present two causes at once. An where these perfectly itself was intact would resist the environment, and the morbid pathological,

which was organism if the environment germs which But although and

not in any way contain would the organism not be able to develop. might are always present, one these two causes it is sometimes the other which sets has greater and which influence sometimes

as falling Suicides have sometimes been regarded its stamp on suicide. into two major that are absurd those and those that are categories: are those which The reasonable and reasoned. former result almost from an organic defect and in which the social causes have exclusively played only an incidental from the nature logically reason. this precise The first of and these cannot role; the latter, on of the environment is not common the other and are hand, intelligible derive for


to the

compared them. Moreover, birth rate particular

therefore the explain it is an established truth of

two phenomena between relationship

is determined race either

that the demography to a very extent small only by race. A on the circum is or is not prolific depending


E. Durkheim


and fertility

stances and the social setting in which it is situated. The French in France have difficulty making good their annual losses; in Canada,
they are multiplying rapidly. People of Norman stock are extremely

fertile on English territory, whereas this is not at all the case in Normandy. These and other facts which might be quoted show that
the birth tions than rate on is much less dependent and the morals ideas causes. on which certain hold we organic sway predisposi in a society.


individual sterility may be due to a physiological

results from other Moreover, are fully

state, mass
aware that it

is intentional,

a sort of discipline,

to which

individuals deliberately
necessities. of suicides But cases. It is and this

on them for organic than one imposed rather submit, true that the D?partements with the largest number the most mental the fewest births are also those with that madness, like suicide and proves merely stem solely from individual, chance variations, causes. The number of persons social from a group does systems within nate matings and hereditary not increase predispositions, the birth but, with

rate, does not in large measure, nervous defective

solely as a result of unfortu but also as a result of the

poor sociological conditions

Often, apparently a different form causes account To relate alone for the determine

inwhich such individuals find themselves.

are merely in social causes appearing organic fixed within the organism. and social Consequently, are common to suicide and the birth rate and are able to causes of facts causes, which also less than these let us confer

between them. the relationship more precisely the exact nature rate to a number of other


that husbands know from suicide. We immunity and fathers much than bachelors from suicide where the

are much

less at risk childless

where is very domestic husbands; family strong, that, are strong to withstand these internal conflicts traditions enough a word, in and divorces that where which elsewhere destroy marriages, are rare also, and that where are rare, suicides the former separations the latter. All that where these facts show as a protection and that the suicide thrives, against family this and unity of the family, the more it possesses the vigour greater rate naturally birth virtue. A healthy presupposes quite protective men where in turn, are only possible but these, families, closely-knit frequent, the it serves are ences fond a communal the pleasures of and prefer these prefer In most life to material cases, well-being. but fixed in an instinctive, become unthinking fashion; probably of and used to domestic solidarity are so are

E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility

195 or their were nature becom

what remains



matter? It has

Whether often been

deliberate said that

the same.

not, if families

this was because the parents were unwilling ing smaller, own or their children's either their material well-being. be

to jeopardize This may well

not have assumed would such impor so; but material well-being tance in popular the joys of collective unless life had lost morality some of their importance. decline in the birth rate implies any Hence, a decline have just seen that this provokes in the domestic spirit. We cause we are looking be the common suicides. So this must for. If the birth rate declines, it is because suicide increases when these two are both a matter When due of in part to a decline in family sentiment. life is the


But what
cannot able who be to offer. would

is the origin of this beneficent

the economic thinks of that one

property of the family? It

that domestic the extra work,

advantages the worries,


and sorrows of all kinds Which large families lead to,

to suggest adds

the balance of purely utilitarian this up to a gain or a loss? From disadvantages advantages it is no longer even possible to see what the raison d'?tre of the angle, one has no alternative be and, like Mr Renan, but to family might love as some kind of mechanism nature contrived regard paternal by


to force them to serve its own ends. In the light of individuals, against there is only one possible the foregoing, to the question, which is reply that the family lies in the nature of the human organism, at least, such as evolution has made it. In his present is created for the state, man of uniting with certain of his fellows in a community closer purpose or simple than ordinary social relations might friendship it is easy to explain how this need could have arisen The effect is to make consolidated. the individual part his and require; and become of a compact

mass with which he identifies and sympathises and which multiplies

are thereby his powers of resistance The increased. less strength: isolated he is, the better he is equipped for the struggle. On the other are smaller, families less fertile, hand, where weaker, individuals, less close to each other, leave gaps between them through which being

there blows the icy blast of egoism, chilling the heart and breaking the
spirit. This social a rule, evidence of yet more study provides it is the social point of view which questions, brief it is above all the economic consequences the truth that, in As rate

predominates. of the birth

which are studied; people seek to establish

its possible

influence on

196 or the

E. Durkheim / Suicide and fertility distribution alone. We so much of goods, in other that on the a

production by these


interests of individuals, and think that itsmovements

considerations is not have just seen

can be explained
it is essentially

condition of and a pointer to the health of societies. What determines

moreover, calculations?which, certain social any effect on most people??s on whether are present or not, pro which, depending feelings they or discourage life in the group. The same mote is true of suicide. It are too complex to have its variations utilitarian

has often been presented as a solution to the conflict of individual interests, and its increase has been explained by the growing intensity of competition, of the fight for survival (Morselli). But it is also due to
other just strictly indicated. social one of which we have or, if you will, moral causes, one of the most It is perhaps of them all. important

[1] See Nadaille, marquis Suicide ancien [2] Legoyt, [3] Morselli, // Suicidio, p. de la natalit? de, Affaiblissement et moderne, p. 257. 199. en France. 121 et seq.


1881, p.

[4] See Table II.

[5] See Dictionnaire DEMOGRAPHIE. omit des sciences m?dicales, articles entitled and FRANCE encyclop?dique I am including only 82 D?partements in my calculations. I have had to and the Savoies, whose the Alpes-Maritimes has been known for such a demography

are not included short time, and also the D?partements annexed in 1870, which in the map of suicides drawn up by Mr. Yvern?s. to Eure a growth of +0.6; table attributes in our view, this plus should have [6] Mr Bertillon's and we have therefore been a minus amended it. Likewise in the case of Calvados. [7] Our sole to make concern, the same in all the foregoing, has been for the marital comparison ranging between it might be interesting growth. We thought rate (number of annual births per fertility 15 and 50 years of age). This produces the following

1,000 married results:


Category D?partement




Marital fertility rate

1st 38 133 2nd 28 139.25 3rd 21 to 17 150.2 4th 16 to 12 161 5th 11 to 5 190 6th 4 to 2 185
the irregularity from Apart coincides with the preceding which ones. in the sixth this result




E. Durkheim

/ Suicide

and fertility


[8] Legoyt, [9] Legoyt,


La France

[10] Statistique Il suicidio. [11] Morselli, [12] The immunity of industry in Italy is even that Italian industry is also underdeveloped.

et moderne, p. 195. et VEtranger, II, 38. de France, I, 63. ancien It probably stems from the fact



[13] 2e s?rie,XVII, XLVII.

[14] Bertillon, 2e s?rie, article II, 490. entitled NATALITE in Dictionnaire encyclop?dique des sciences m?dicales,