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Childlessness, celibacy and net fertility in pre-industrial England: the middle-class evolutionary advantage

Author

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  • David de la Croix

    () (UCLouvain
    CEPR)

  • Eric B. Schneider

    () (CEPR
    London School of Economics)

  • Jacob Weisdorf

    () (CEPR
    University of Southern Denmark
    CAGE
    University of Rome La Sapienza)

Abstract

This paper reconsiders the fertility of historical social groups by accounting for singleness and childlessness. We find that the middle class had the highest reproductive success during England’s early industrial development. In light of the greater propensity of the middle class to invest in human capital, the rise in the prevalence of these traits in the population could have been instrumental to England’s economic success. Unlike earlier results about the survival of the richest, the paper shows that the reproductive success of the rich (and also the poor) were lower than that of the middle class, once accounting for singleness and childlessness. Hence, the prosperity of England over this period can be attributed to the increase in the prevalence of middle-class traits rather than those of the upper (or lower) class.

Suggested Citation

  • David de la Croix & Eric B. Schneider & Jacob Weisdorf, 2019. "Childlessness, celibacy and net fertility in pre-industrial England: the middle-class evolutionary advantage," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 223-256, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jecgro:v:24:y:2019:i:3:d:10.1007_s10887-019-09170-6
    DOI: 10.1007/s10887-019-09170-6
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    Cited by:

    1. Schneider, Eric B., 2020. "Collider bias in economic history research," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    2. Blanc, Guillaume & Wacziarg, Romain, 2020. "Change and persistence in the Age of Modernization: Saint-Germain-d’Anxure, 1730–1895," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 78(C).
    3. Faustine Perrin, 2021. "On the Origins of the Demographic Transition Rethinking the European Marriage Pattern," Working Papers of BETA 2021-02, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    4. Horrell, Sara & Humphries, Jane & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2020. "Malthus's missing women and children: demography and wages in historical perspective, England 1280-1850," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    5. Faustine Perrin, 2021. "On the Origins of the Demographic Transition. Rethinking the European Marriage Pattern," Working Papers 01-21, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    6. Faustine Perrin, 2020. "On the Origins of the Demographic Transition. Rethinking the European Marriage Pattern," Working Papers 0202, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    7. Sara Horrell & Jane Humphries & Jacob Weisdorf, 2019. "Working for a Living? Women and Children’s Labour Inputs in England, 1260-1850," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _172, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    8. Cummins, Neil, 2020. "The micro-evidence for the Malthusian system. France, 1670–1840," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fertility; Marriage; Childlessness; European marriage pattern; Industrial revolution; Evolutionary advantage; Social class;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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