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Was Malthus Right? A Var Analysis Of Economic And Demographic Interactions In Pre-Industrial England

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  • Esteban A. Nicolini

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Abstract

This paper shows that the interaction between economic and demographic variables in England before the onset of modern economic growth did not fit some crucial assumptions of the Malthusian model. I estimated a vector autoregression for data on fertility, nuptiality, mortality and real wages over the period 1541-1840 applying a well-known identification strategy broadly used in macroeconomics. The results show that endogenous adjustment of population to real wages functioned as Malthus assumed only until the 17th century: positive checks disappeared during the 17th century and preventive checks disappeared before 1740. This implies that the endogenous adjustment of population levels to changes in real wages -one of the cornerstones of the Malthusian model- did not work during an important part of the period usually considered within the “Malthusian regime”.

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Paper provided by Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones in its series Working Papers in Economic History with number wh060601.

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Date of creation: Feb 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cte:whrepe:wh060601

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  1. Eckstein, Zvi & Schultz, T. Paul & Wolpin, Kenneth I., 1984. "Short-run fluctuations in fertility and mortality in pre-industrial Sweden," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 295-317, December.
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  7. Christiano, Lawrence J. & Eichenbaum, Martin & Evans, Charles L., 1999. "Monetary policy shocks: What have we learned and to what end?," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 65-148 Elsevier.
  8. Galor, Oded & Weil, David, 1998. "Population, Technology and Growth: From the Malthusian Regime to the Demographic Transition," CEPR Discussion Papers 1981, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Nicolini, Esteban A., 2004. "Mortality, interest rates, investment, and agricultural production in 18th century England," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 130-155, April.
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  12. Kogel, Tomas & Prskawetz, Alexia, 2001. " Agricultural Productivity Growth and Escape from the Malthusian Trap," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 337-57, December.
  13. Nils-Petter Lagerl–f, 2003. "From Malthus to Modern Growth: Can Epidemics Explain the Three Regimes?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(2), pages 755-777, 05.
  14. Michael Anderson & Ronald Lee, 2002. "Malthus in state space: Macro economic-demographic relations in English history, 1540 to 1870," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 195-220.
  15. Grantham, George, 1999. "Contra Ricardo: On the macroeconomics of pre-industrial economies," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 199-232, August.
  16. Tsoulouhas, Theofanis C., 1992. "A new look at demographic and technological changes: England, 1550 to 1839," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 169-203, April.
  17. Allen, Robert C., 2001. "The Great Divergence in European Wages and Prices from the Middle Ages to the First World War," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
  18. E. A. Wrigley, 1966. "Family Limitation in Pre-Industrial England," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 19(1), pages 82-109, 04.
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