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

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  • David de la Croix

    (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) and Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE))

  • Eric B. Schneider

    (London School of Economics and CEPR)

  • Jacob Weisdorf

    (University of Southern Denmark and CEPR)

Abstract

Previous work has shown that England's pre-industrial elites had more surviving off-spring 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.

Suggested Citation

  • David de la Croix & Eric B. Schneider & Jacob Weisdorf, 2017. ""Decessit sine prole" Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England," LIDAM Discussion Papers IRES 2017001, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2017001
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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, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 13(1), pages 25-54, January.

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