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How the West "invented" fertility restriction

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  • Nico Voigtländer
  • Joachim Voth

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Abstract

We analyze the rise of the first socio-economic institution in history that limited fertility – long before the Demographic Transition. The "European Marriage Pattern" (EMP) raised the marriage age of women and ensured that many remained celibate, thereby reducing childbirths by up to one third between the 14th and 18th century. To explain the rise of EMP we build a two-sector model of agricultural production – grain and livestock. Women have a comparative advantage in the latter because plow agriculture requires physical strength. After the Black Death in 1348-50, land abundance triggered a shift towards the landintensive pastoral sector, improving female employment prospects. Because women working in animal husbandry had to remain unmarried, more farm service spelled later marriages. The resulting reduction in fertility led to a new Malthusian steady state with lower population pressure and higher wages. The model can thus help to explain the divergence in income per capita between Europe and Asia long before the Industrial Revolution. Using detailed data from England after 1290, we provide strong evidence for our mechanism. Where pastoral agriculture dominated, more women worked as servants, and marriage occurred markedly later. Overall, we estimate that pastoral farming raised female ages at first marriage by more than 4 years.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1264.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
Date of revision: Dec 2012
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1264

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Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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Keywords: Fertility; Great Divergence; Demographic Regime; Long-Run Growth;

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Cited by:
  1. Dietrich Vollrath, 2011. "The agricultural basis of comparative development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 343-370, December.
  2. Fernández-Villaverde, Jesús & Greenwood, Jeremy & Guner, Nezih, 2011. "From Shame to Game in One Hundred Years: The Rise in Premarital Sex and its Destigmitization," CEPR Discussion Papers 8667, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde & Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner, 2014. "From Shame To Game In One Hundred Years: An Economic Model Of The Rise In Premarital Sex And Its De-Stigmatization," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 25-61, 02.
  4. Joshua Wilde, 2013. "How Substitutable are Fixed Factors in Production? Evidence from Pre-industrial England," Working Papers 0113, University of South Florida, Department of Economics.
  5. Graziella Bertocchi & Monica Bozzano, 2013. "Family Structure and the Education Gender Gap: Evidence from Italian Provinces," CESifo Working Paper Series 4460, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Jeremy Greenwood & Nezih Guner, 2011. "From Shame to Game in One Hundred Years: A Macroeconomic Model of the Rise in Premarital Sex and its De-Stigmatization," RCER Working Papers 569, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  7. 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.
  8. Stephen Broadberry, 2013. "Accounting for the great divergence," Economic History Working Papers 54573, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  9. Proto, Eugenio; Sgroi, Daniel, 2011. "False Consensus in Economic Agents," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 55, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  10. 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).
  11. Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "The Three Horsemen of Riches: Plague, War, and Urbanization in Early Modern Europe," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(2), pages 774-811.
  12. Miller, Marcus & Zhang, Lei, 2013. "Fiscal consolidation: Dr Pangloss meets Mr Keynes," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 159, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  13. Sandra González-Bailón & Tommy E. Murphy, 2011. "Social Interactions and Long-Term Fertility Dynamics.A Simulation Experiment in the Context of the French Fertility Decline," Working Papers 419, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  14. Manoel Bittencourt, 2014. "Education and Fertility: Panel Time-Series Evidence from Southern Africa," Working Papers 201402, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
  15. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, 2009. "From Shame to Game in One Hundred Years: An Economic Model of the Rise in Premarital Sex and its De-Stigmatization," 2009 Meeting Papers 155, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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