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The population history of Germany: research strategy and preliminary results


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  • Ulrich Pfister
  • Georg Fertig


The paper presents the project of an aggregative reconstruction of the population of Ger-many from the sixteenth century to 1840, when official statistics began to provide complete coverage of all German states. The creation of estimates of population size and of annual series of the crude birth, marriage and death rates rests on three types of sources: First, pairs of partial censuses of hearths, taxpayers, communicants, etc. for the same regional aggregate at two different points in time are used to derive annual growth rates of popula-tion. This information is used to derive approximate estimates of total population size in ten-year intervals. Second, to develop aggregate series of vital events the project aims to analyse approximately 450 to 600 parish registers. Third, the project makes use of proto-statistical material on population size and the number of vital events that states began to collect selectively from c. 1740. On the basis of material from Gehrmann (2000), from published studies on c. 140 parishes and from selected other sources we construct a pre-liminary dataset for the period 1730–1840. Our cumulative rates of natural increase are broadly consistent with independent estimates of population growth. We use these series for two explorative analyses: First, on the basis of inverse projection we generate tentative estimates of the gross reproduction rate, of life expectancy and the dependency ratio. The results suggest an increase of the life expectancy and of the dependency ratio, the latter being the result of persistent population growth. Second, by adding a real wage series we study Malthusian adaptation with two methods, namely, VAR and time varying cumulated lag regression. The results consistently suggest the presence of both the preventive and the positive check during the eighteenth century. Whereas the preventive check persisted into the nineteenth century, mortality became exogenous in the early nineteenth century. Par-ticularly the 1810s turn out as a period of major change in at least three dimensions: real wages increased, life expectancies rose, and the positive check disappeared. Thus, Germany became a non-Malthusian economy well before the advent of industrialisation. Additional information suggests that market integration was a driving force behind this process.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany in its series MPIDR Working Papers with number WP-2010-035.

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Length: 72 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2010-035

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Keywords: Germany; history; population;

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  1. Esteban A. Nicolini, 2006. "Was Malthus Right? A Var Analysis Of Economic And Demographic Interactions In Pre-Industrial England," Working Papers in Economic History wh060601, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones.
  2. Timothy Guinnane & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2008. "Institutions and Demographic Responses to Shocks: Württemberg, 1634-1870," Working Papers, Economic Growth Center, Yale University 962, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  3. Oded_Galor, 2004. "From Stagnation to Growth:Unified Growth Theory," Working Papers 2004-15, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Horrell, Sara & Humphries, Jane, 1992. "Old Questions, New Data, and Alternative Perspectives: Families' Living Standards in the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 849-880, December.
  5. Ulrich Pfister, 2010. "Consumer prices and wages in Germany, 1500 - 1850," CQE Working Papers, Center for Quantitative Economics (CQE), University of Muenster 1510, Center for Quantitative Economics (CQE), University of Muenster.
  6. 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, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 411-447, October.
  7. Davin Chor, 2005. "Institutions, Wages and Inequality : The Case of Europe and its Periphery (1500-1899)," Microeconomics Working Papers 22065, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
  8. Galor, Oded & Weil, David, 1998. "Population, Technology and Growth: From the Malthusian Regime to the Demographic Transition," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 1981, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Crafts, Nicholas & Mills, Terence C., 2009. "From Malthus to Solow: How did the Malthusian economy really evolve?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 68-93, March.
  10. Alan Fernihough, 2010. "Malthusian Dynamics in a Diverging Europe: Northern Italy 1650-1881," Working Papers, School Of Economics, University College Dublin 201037, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  11. Robert C. Allen, 2003. "Progress and poverty in early modern Europe," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, Economic History Society, vol. 56(3), pages 403-443, 08.
  12. Komlos, John, 1998. "Shrinking in a Growing Economy? The Mystery of Physical Stature during the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 779-802, September.
  13. Alexander Rathke & Samad Sarferaz, 2010. "Malthus was right: new evidence from a time-varying VAR," IEW - Working Papers, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich 477, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  14. Niels Framroze Møller & Paul Sharp, 2008. "Malthus in Cointegration Space: A new look at living standards and population in pre-industrial England," Discussion Papers, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics 08-16, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  15. Chiarini, Bruno, 2010. "Was Malthus right? The relationship between population and real wages in Italian history, 1320 to 1870," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 460-475, October.
  16. Michael Anderson & Ronald Lee, 2002. "Malthus in state space: Macro economic-demographic relations in English history, 1540 to 1870," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 195-220.
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Cited by:
  1. Kopsidis, Michael & Bromley, Daniel W., 2014. "The French Revolution and German industrialization: The new institutional economics rewrites history," IAMO Discussion Papers, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO) 149, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO).
  2. Michael Kopsidis & Ulrich Pfister, 2013. "Agricultural development during early industrialization in a low-wage economy: Saxony, c. 1790-1830," Working Papers, European Historical Economics Society (EHES) 0039, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  3. Alan Fernihough, 2013. "Malthusian Dynamics in a Diverging Europe: Northern Italy, 1650–1881," Demography, Springer, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 311-332, February.
  4. Marc Patrick Brag Klemp & Niels Framroze Møller, 2013. "Post-Malthusian Dynamics in Pre-Industrial Scandinavia," Working Papers 2013-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  5. Ulrich Pfister & Jana Riedel & Martin Uebele, 2012. "Real Wages and the Origins of Modern Economic Growth in Germany, 16th to 19th Centuries," Working Papers, European Historical Economics Society (EHES) 0017, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).


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