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Was Malthus right? A VAR analysis of economic and demographic interactions in pre-industrial England

  • NICOLINI, ESTEBAN A.

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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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal European Review of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 11 (2007)
Issue (Month): 01 (April)
Pages: 99-121

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Handle: RePEc:cup:ereveh:v:11:y:2007:i:01:p:99-121_00
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  12. 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.
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  14. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 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.
  15. John Knodel, 1987. "Starting, stopping, and spacing during the early stages of fertility transition: The experience of German village populations in the 18th and 19th centuries," Demography, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 143-162, May.
  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. 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.
  18. 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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