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Malthus, Wages, and Preindustrial Growth

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  • CLARK, GREGORY
  • CUMMINS, JOSEPH
  • SMITH, BROCK

Abstract

Gregory Clark argued in A Farewell to Alms that preindustrial societies, including England, were Malthusian. Day wages show incomes were trendless: as high in Europe in the medieval era as in 1800, even in England. The opposed view is that England and the Netherlands grew substantially from 1200 to 1800. Early day wages overestimate living standards. Here we show that preindustrial farm employment shares can be estimated from probate occupation reports. These imply only 60 percent employed in farming in England in 1560–1579 and 1653–1660, consistent with the high incomes indicated by wages. Day wages do measure preindustrial living standards.

Suggested Citation

  • Clark, Gregory & Cummins, Joseph & Smith, Brock, 2012. "Malthus, Wages, and Preindustrial Growth," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(02), pages 364-392, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:72:y:2012:i:02:p:364-392_00
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    Cited by:

    1. Groth, Christian & Persson, Karl Gunnar, 2016. "Growth or stagnation in pre-industrial Britain? A revealed income growth approach," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 264, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    2. Clark, Gregory, 2013. "1381 and the Malthus delusion," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 4-15.
    3. Tepper, Alexander & Borowiecki, Karol Jan, 2015. "Accounting for breakout in Britain: The industrial revolution through a Malthusian lens," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 219-233.
    4. Maya Shatzmiller, 2015. "An early knowledge economy: the adoption of paper, human capital and economic change in the medieval Islamic Middle East, 700-1300 AD," Working Papers 0064, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    5. Thomas Baudin & Robert Stelter, 2016. "Rural exodus and fertility at the time of industrialization," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2016020, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    6. Wallis, Patrick & Colson, Justin & Chilosi, David, 2016. "Puncturing the Malthus delusion: structural change in the British economy before the industrial revolution, 1500-1800," Economic History Working Papers 66816, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.

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