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Survival of the Richest: The Malthusian Mechanism in Pre-Industrial England

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  • CLARK, GREGORY
  • HAMILTON, GILLIAN

Abstract

Fundamental to the Malthusian model of pre-industrial society is the assumption that higher income increased reproductive success. Despite the seemingly inescapable logic of this model, its empirical support is weak. We examine the link between income and net fertility using data from wills on reproductive success, social status and income for England 1585–1638. We find that for this society, close to a Malthusian equilibrium, wealth robustly predicted reproductive success. The richest testators left twice as many children as the poorest. Consequently, in this static economy, social mobility was predominantly downwards. The result extends back to at least 1250 in England.

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  • Clark, Gregory & Hamilton, Gillian, 2006. "Survival of the Richest: The Malthusian Mechanism in Pre-Industrial England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(3), pages 707-736, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:66:y:2006:i:03:p:707-736_00
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