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Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England

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Author Info

  • Cinnirella, Francesco

    (Ifo Institute, CESifo and CEPR)

  • Klemp, Marc P. B.

    (Brown University and University of Copenhagen)

  • Weisdorf, Jacob L.

    (University of Southern Denmark, Utrecht University and CEPR)

Abstract

The role of demography in long-run economic growth has been subject to increasing attention. This paper questions the received wisdom that marital birth control was absent before the nineteenth century. Using an extensive individual-level dataset covering 270,000 births from 80,000 families we show that higher national and sector-specific real wages reduced spacing between births in England over more than three centuries, from 1540-1850. This effect is present among both poor and rich families and is robust to a wide range of control variables accounting for external factors influencing a couple’s fertility such as malnutrition, climate shocks and the disease environment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) in its series CAGE Online Working Paper Series with number 174.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cge:warwcg:174

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Keywords: Spacing; birth intervals; fertility limitation; natural fertility; preventive check;

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  1. Oded Galor, 2005. "Unified Growth Theory," Development and Comp Systems 0504001, EconWPA.
  2. Marc Klemp & Jacob Weisdorf, 2012. "The lasting damage to mortality of early-life adversity: evidence from the English famine of the late 1720s," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(3), pages 233-246, August.
  3. Crafts, Nicholas & Mills, Terence C., 2009. "From Malthus to Solow: How did the Malthusian economy really evolve?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 68-93, March.
  4. John Knodel, 1987. "Starting, stopping, and spacing during the early stages of fertility transition: The experience of German village populations in the 18th and 19th centuries," Demography, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 143-162, May.
  5. Oded Galor, 2004. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," GE, Growth, Math methods 0409003, EconWPA.
  6. E. A. Wrigley, 1966. "Family Limitation in Pre-Industrial England," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 19(1), pages 82-109, 04.
  7. Gary D. Hansen & Edward C. Prescott, 1998. "Malthus to Solow," NBER Working Papers 6858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection And The Origin Of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191, November.
  9. Gregory Clark & Neil Cummins, 2010. "Malthus to Modernity: England’s First Fertility Transition, 1760-1800," Working Papers 1013, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  10. Nina Boberg-Fazlic & Paul Sharp & Jacob Weisdorf, 2011. "Survival of the Richest? Social Status, Fertility, and Social Mobility in England 1541-1824," Discussion Papers 11-02, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  11. Malthus, Thomas Robert, 1798. "An Essay on the Principle of Population," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number malthus1798.
  12. 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.
  13. Nico Voigtlander & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2009. "Malthusian Dynamism and the Rise of Europe: Make War, Not Love," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 248-54, May.
  14. Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2011. "The Preventive Check in Medieval and Pre-industrial England," Working Papers 201110, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  15. Tommy Bengtsson & Martin Dribe, 2006. "Deliberate control in a natural fertility population: Southern Sweden, 1766–1864," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(4), pages 727-746, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Tracy Dennison & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2013. "Does the European Marriage Pattern Explain Economic Growth," CESifo Working Paper Series 4244, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Klemp, Marc P B & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2012. "Fecundity, Fertility and Family Reconstitution Data: The Child Quantity-Quality Trade-O Revisite," CEPR Discussion Papers 9121, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Sascha O. Becker & Francesco Cinnirella & Ludger Woessmann, 2013. "Does women's education affect fertility? Evidence from pre-demographic transition Prussia," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 24-44, February.

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