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

Author

Listed:
  • Cinnirella, Francesco

    (Ifo Institute, CESifo and CEPR)

  • Klemp, Marc P. B.

    (Brown University and University of Copenhagen)

  • Weisdorf, Jacob L.

    (University of Southern Denmark, Utrecht University and CEPR)

Abstract

The role of demography in long-run economic growth has been subject to increasing attention. This paper questions the received wisdom that marital birth control was absent before the nineteenth century. Using an extensive individual-level dataset covering 270,000 births from 80,000 families we show that higher national and sector-specific real wages reduced spacing between births in England over more than three centuries, from 1540-1850. This effect is present among both poor and rich families and is robust to a wide range of control variables accounting for external factors influencing a couple’s fertility such as malnutrition, climate shocks and the disease environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Cinnirella, Francesco & Klemp, Marc P. B. & Weisdorf, Jacob L., 2013. "Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 174, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:174
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    File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/manage/publications/174-2013_cinnirella.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gregory Clark, 2005. "The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1209-2004," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1307-1340, December.
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    14. Marc Klemp & Jacob Weisdorf, 2012. "The lasting damage to mortality of early-life adversity: evidence from the English famine of the late 1720s," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(3), pages 233-246, August.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Strulik, Holger, 2015. "Desire and Development," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112818, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. David de la Croix & Eric B. Schneider & Jacob Weisdorf, 2017. ""Decessit sine prole" Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2017001, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    3. Marc Klemp & Niels Framroze Møller, 2016. "Post-Malthusian Dynamics in Pre-Industrial Scandinavia," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 118(4), pages 841-867, October.
    4. Klemp, Marc & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2016. "Fecundity, Fertility and the Formation of Human Capital," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 296, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    5. Clark, Gregory & Cummins, Neil, 2016. "The Child Quality-Quantity Tradeoff, England, 1780-1880: A Fundamental Component of the Economic Theory of Growth is Missing," CEPR Discussion Papers 11232, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Dennison, Tracy & Ogilvie, Sheilagh, 2014. "Does the European Marriage Pattern Explain Economic Growth?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(03), pages 651-693, September.
    7. Mette Ejrnes & Karl Gunnar Persson, 2014. "Fertility Responses to Expectations of Child Mortality in a Tuscan Village 1700-1913: A Micro-Data Approach," Discussion Papers 14-10, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    8. Sascha O. Becker & Francesco Cinnirella & Ludger Woessmann, 2013. "Does women's education affect fertility? Evidence from pre-demographic transition Prussia," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 24-44, February.
    9. Alan Fernihough, 2017. "Human capital and the quantity–quality trade-off during the demographic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 35-65, March.
    10. Klemp, Marc P B & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2012. "Fecundity, Fertility and Family Reconstitution Data: The Child Quantity-Quality Trade-O Revisite," CEPR Discussion Papers 9121, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    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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