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Survival of the richest? Social status, fertility and social mobility in England 1541-1824




We use data collected by the Cambridge Group to investigate and explain differences in fertility by socio-economic group in pre-industrial England. We find, in line with results presented by Greg Clark, that wealthier groups did indeed have higher fertility until the 1700s. We demonstrate that this had to do with earlier age at marriage for women. We then turn to the likely social and economic impact of this, considering Clark's hypothesis that ‘middle-class values’ spread through English society prior to the Industrial Revolution. Through the construction of social mobility tables, we demonstrate that the children of the rich were indeed spreading through society, but they were small in number relative to poorer sections of society, and moreover the children of the poor were also entering the middle classes.

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  • Boberg-Fazlic, Nina & Sharp, Paul & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2011. "Survival of the richest? Social status, fertility and social mobility in England 1541-1824," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(03), pages 365-392, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:ereveh:v:15:y:2011:i:03:p:365-392_00

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2002. "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1133-1191.
    2. Galor, Oded, 2005. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 171-293 Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. David de la Croix & Eric B. Schneider & Jacob Weisdorf, 2017. ""Decessit sine prole" Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2017001, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    2. Bandyopadhyay, Sanghamitra & Green, Elliott, 2013. "Fertility and wealth in early colonial India: Evidence from widow suicides (satis) in Bengal," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 120(2), pages 302-304.
    3. Marc Klemp & Chris Minns & Patrick Wallis & Jacob Weisdorf, 2012. "Family Investment Strategies in Pre-modern Societies: Human Capital, Migration, and Birth Order in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century England," Working Papers 0018, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    4. Marco Breschi & Massimo Esposito & Stanislao Mazzoni & Lucia Pozzi, 2014. "Fertility transition and social stratification in the town of Alghero, Sardinia (1866-1935)," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 30(28), pages 823-852, March.
    5. Cinnirella, Francesco & Klemp, Marc P B & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2012. "Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England," CEPR Discussion Papers 9116, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay and Elliott Green, 2013. "On the Relationship Between Fertility and Wealth: Evidence from Widow Suicides (Satis) in Early Colonial India," Working Papers 41, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Business and Management, Centre for Globalisation Research.
    7. Masako Kimura & Daishin Yasui, 2012. "Public Policy and the Income-Fertility Relationship in Economic Development," KIER Working Papers 834, Kyoto University, Institute of Economic Research.
    8. Martin Dribe & Francesco Scalone, 2014. "Social class and net fertility before, during, and after the demographic transition: A micro-level analysis of Sweden 1880-1970," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 30(15), pages 429-464, February.
    9. Daishin Yasui, 2014. "A Theory of the Cross-Sectional Fertility Differential: Jobs f Heterogeneity Approach," Discussion Papers 1409, Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University.
    10. Francesco Cinnirella & Marc Klemp & Jacob Weisdorf, 2017. "Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as Birth Control in Pre-Transition England," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(2), pages 413-436, April.
    11. Alan Fernihough, 2017. "Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 35-65, March.
    12. Nina Boberg-Fazlic & Paul Sharp, 2013. "North and South: Social Mobility and Welfare Spending in Preindustrial England," Working Papers 0037, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    13. Franziska Tollnek & Joerg Baten, 2012. "Farmer Families at the Heart of the Educational Revolution: Which Occupational Group Inherited Human Capital in the Early Modern Era?," Working Papers 0033, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    14. Marc Klemp & Jacob Weisdorf, 2011. "The Child Quantity-Quality Trade-Off During the Industrial Revolution in England," Discussion Papers 11-16, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    15. repec:wly:econjl:v:127:y:2017:i:599:p:50-83 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Nina Boberg‐Fazlić & Paul Sharp, 2017. "Does Welfare Spending Crowd Out Charitable Activity? Evidence from Historical England Under the Poor Laws," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(599), pages 50-83, February.
    17. Gregory Clark, 2012. "The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850 : Review Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 85-95, March.
    18. Alexandra M. de Pleijt & Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2017. "Human capital formation from occupations: the ‘deskilling hypothesis’ revisited," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(1), pages 1-30, January.
    19. Marc Klemp & Chris Minns & Patrick Wallis & Jacob Weisdorf, 2013. "Picking winners? The effect of birth order and migration on parental human capital investments in pre-modern England," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(2), pages 210-232, May.
    20. Klemp, Marc P B & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2012. "Fecundity, Fertility and Family Reconstitution Data: The Child Quantity-Quality Trade-O Revisite," CEPR Discussion Papers 9121, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913


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