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Survival of the Richest: The Malthusian Mechanism in Pre-Industrial England

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  • CLARK, GREGORY
  • HAMILTON, GILLIAN

Abstract

Fundamental to the Malthusian model of pre-industrial society is the assumption that higher income increased reproductive success. Despite the seemingly inescapable logic of this model, its empirical support is weak. We examine the link between income and net fertility using data from wills on reproductive success, social status and income for England 1585 1638. We find that for this society, close to a Malthusian equilibrium, wealth robustly predicted reproductive success. The richest testators left twice as many children as the poorest. Consequently, in this static economy, social mobility was predominantly downwards. The result extends back to at least 1250 in England.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 66 (2006)
Issue (Month): 03 (September)
Pages: 707-736

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:66:y:2006:i:03:p:707-736_00

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  1. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  2. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2001. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 2727, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Clark, Gregory, 2002. "Shelter From The Storm: Housing And The Industrial Revolution, 1550 1909," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 489-511, June.
  4. Weir, David R., 1995. "Family Income, Mortality, and Fertility on the Eve of the Demographic Transition: A Case Study of Rosny-Sous-Bois," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(01), pages 1-26, March.
  5. Clark, Gregory, 1998. "Land Hunger: Land as a Commodity and as a Status Good, England, 1500-1910," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 59-82, January.
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