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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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    1. Gregory Clark, 2005. "The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1209-2004," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1307-1340, December.
    2. 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.
    3. Gregory Clark, 2005. "The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1209-2004," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1307-1340, December.
    4. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
    5. Clark, Gregory, 2002. "Shelter From The Storm: Housing And The Industrial Revolution, 1550–1909," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(2), pages 489-511, June.
    6. Weir, David R., 1995. "Family Income, Mortality, and Fertility on the Eve of the Demographic Transition: A Case Study of Rosny-Sous-Bois," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(1), pages 1-26, March.
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