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The Malthusian Intermezzo - Women’s wages and human capital formation between the Late Middle Ages and the Demographic Transition of the 19th century

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  • Jan Luiten van Zanden

Abstract

Why did the European Marriage Pattern that emerged in the North-Sea region in the late Medieval Period not result in a continuous shift from ‘quantity’ to ‘quality’? This paper addresses this question focusing on the changing labour market position of women in England between 1500 and 1800. It is demonstrated that the gender wage gap increased strongly in this period; wages of women working in agriculture fell from about 80% to 40% of the wages of an unskilled labourer. This was probably the result of a decline in the demand for female labour in this period due to changes in the structure of agriculture, and was possibly also related from the movement from a labour scarcity economy in the 15th century to a labour surplus economy in 18th and early 19th century. This decline in female labour participation and in particular in the relative wages earned by women had important consequences for demographic behaviour and investment in human capital of children. It helps to explain the ‘baby boom’ of the second half of the 18th century, and the stagnation in human capital formation that occurred at the same time – in short, it contributes to the understanding of the ‘Malthusian intermezzo’ of this period.

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File URL: http://www.cgeh.nl/sites/default/files/WorkingPapers/CGEH.WP_.No14.vanZanden.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History in its series Working Papers with number 0014.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0014

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Postal: University of Utrecht, Drift 10, The Netherlands
Web page: http://www.cgeh.nl
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Related research

Keywords: Demographic change; European Marriage Pattern; Female wage gap; Female labour participation;

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References

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  1. Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1, July.
  2. Gregory Clark, 2001. "The Long March of History: Farm Laborers Wages in England 1208-1850," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 625018000000000238, www.najecon.org.
  3. Donald Woodward, 1980. "The Background to the Statute of Artificers: The Genesis of Labour Policy, 1558–63," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 33(1), pages 32-44, 02.
  4. Humphries, Jane, 1990. "Enclosures, Common Rights, and Women: The Proletarianization of Families in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(01), pages 17-42, March.
  5. repec:cge:warwcg:35 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Ambrus, Attila & Field, Erica, 2008. "Early Marriage, Age of Menarche, and Female Schooling Attainment in Bangladesh," Scholarly Articles 3200264, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Robert C. Allen, 2003. "Progress and poverty in early modern Europe," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 56(3), pages 403-443, 08.
  8. Ogilvie, Sheilagh, 2003. "A Bitter Living: Women, Markets, and Social Capital in Early Modern Germany," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198205548.
  9. Broadberry, Stephen; Campbell, Bruce; Klein, Alexander; Overton, Mark; Van Leeuwen, Bas., 2010. "English Economic Growth: 1270 - 1870," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 35, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
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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.

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