1381 and the Malthus delusion
What were income trends before the Industrial Revolution? Clark (2007b) argued both theoretically and empirically that pre-industrial income fluctuated, but was not trending upwards, a position Persson (2008) labeled “the Malthus Delusion.” Clark (2010a), in particular, estimated that pre-industrial English income was as high on average as in 1800. In contrast, Broadberry et al. (2011) estimate that income tripled between 1270 and 1800. One test of early income estimates is the share employed in farming. This paper, focusing on the poll tax returns of 1379–1381, shows that only 56–59% of the English population was in farming or fishing. This small share implies incomes in 1381 equivalent to those of 1800.
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