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Accounting for breakout in Britain: The industrial revolution through a Malthusian lens

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  • Tepper, Alexander
  • Borowiecki, Karol Jan

Abstract

This paper introduces a simple dynamic model to examine the breakout from a Malthusian economy to a modern growth regime. It identifies several factors that determine the fastest rate at which the population can grow without engendering declining living standards. We then apply the framework to Britain and find a dramatic increase in sustainable population growth at the time of the Industrial Revolution, well before the beginning of modern levels of income growth. The main contributions to the British breakout were technological improvements and structural change away from agricultural production, while coal, capital, and trade played a minor role. In addition to solidifying the link between the Industrial Revolution and rising living standards, this research reconciles the gradualist and limited Crafts–Harley view of the Industrial Revolution with a dramatic and rapid change in Britain’s macroeconomic character.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:44:y:2015:i:c:p:219-233
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jmacro.2015.01.006
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    Keywords

    Industrial Revolution; Malthusian dynamics; Maximum sustainable population growth; Development; Demographics;

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O41 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - One, Two, and Multisector Growth Models
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe

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