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From preventive to permissive checks: the changing nature of the Malthusian relationship between nuptiality and the price of provisions in the nineteenth century


  • Jacob Weisdorf

    () (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen, Studiestraede 6, 1455 Copenhagen K, Denmark.)

  • Paul Sharp

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen, Studiestraede 6, 1455 Copenhagen K, Denmark.)


The Malthusian “preventive check” mechanism has been well documented for pre-industrial England through evidence for a negative correlation between the marriage rate and the price of wheat. Other literature, however, speculates that the correlation was in fact positive from the early nineteenth century. This paper uses the cointegrated VAR model and recursive estimation techniques to document the changing relationship between nuptiality and the price of wheat from 1541 to 1965. The relationship is indeed positive from the early nineteenth century to the First World War. A simple theoretical model shows that this result is not in fact inconsistent with a stylised Malthusian mechanism, and can be understood within the context of an increasing dominance of shocks to aggregate demand rather than to aggregate supply.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacob Weisdorf & Paul Sharp, 2009. "From preventive to permissive checks: the changing nature of the Malthusian relationship between nuptiality and the price of provisions in the nineteenth century," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 3(1), pages 55-70, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:3:y:2009:i:1:p:55-70

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. David Greasley & Les Oxley, 2010. "Cliometrics And Time Series Econometrics: Some Theory And Applications," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 24(5), pages 970-1042, December.
    2. Niels Framroze Møller & Paul Sharp, 2008. "Malthus in Cointegration Space: A new look at living standards and population in pre-industrial England," Discussion Papers 08-16, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    3. Tommy E. Murphy, 2010. "Persistence of Malthus or Persistence in Malthus? Mortality, Income, and Marriage in the French Fertility Decline of the Long Nineteenth Century?," Working Papers 363, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy


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