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Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England

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  • Francesco Cinnirella

    ()

  • Marc P. B. Klemp
  • Jacob L. Weisdorf

Abstract

We question the received wisdom that birth limitation was absent among historical populations before the fertility transition of the late nineteenth-century. Using duration and panel models on family-level data, we find a causal, negative short-run effect of living standards on birth spacing in the three centuries preceding England’s fertility transition. While the effect could be driven by biology in the case of the poor, a significant effect among the rich suggests that spacing worked as a control mechanism in pre-modern England. Our findings support the Malthusian preventive check hypothesis and rationalize England’s historical leadership as a low population-pressure, high-wage economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Francesco Cinnirella & Marc P. B. Klemp & Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2012. "Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England," CESifo Working Paper Series 3936, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3936
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    spacing; birth intervals; fertility; limitation; natural fertility; preventive check;

    JEL classification:

    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • 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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