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'Decessit sine prole' - Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England

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  • de la Croix, David
  • Schneider, Eric
  • Weisdorf, Jacob

Abstract

Previous work has shown that England's pre-industrial elites had more surviving offspring than their lower-class counterparts. This evidence was used to argue that the spread of upper-class values via downward social mobility helped England grow rich. We contest this view, showing that the lower classes outperformed the rich in terms of reproduction once singleness and childlessness are accounted for. Indeed, Merchants, Professionals and Gentry married less, and their marriages were more often childless. Many died without descendants (decessit sine prole). We also establish that the most prosperous socio-economic group in terms of reproduction was the middle class, which we argue was instrumental to England's economic success because most of its new industrialists originated from middle-class families.

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  • de la Croix, David & Schneider, Eric & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2017. "'Decessit sine prole' - Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England," CEPR Discussion Papers 11752, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11752
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Alexandra de Pleijt & Alessandro Nuvolari & Jacob Weisdorf, 2020. "Human Capital Formation During the First Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the use of Steam Engines," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 829-889.
    2. Sandra Brée & David de la Croix, 2019. "Key forces behind the decline of fertility: lessons from childlessness in Rouen before the industrial revolution," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 13(1), pages 25-54, January.
    3. Thomas TB Baudin & David De la Croix & Paula Eugenia Gobbi, 2019. "Childlessness and Economic Development: a Survey," Working Papers ECARES 2019-03, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    4. Gobbi, Paula & Goñi, Marc, 2018. "Childless Aristocrats. Inheritance and the extensive margin of fertility," CEPR Discussion Papers 12744, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    European Marriage Pattern; Evolutionary Advantage; Fertility; industrial revolution; Marriage; Middle class;

    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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