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The population history of Germany: research strategy and preliminary results

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  • Ulrich Pfister
  • Georg Fertig

Abstract

The paper presents the project of an aggregative reconstruction of the population of Ger-many from the sixteenth century to 1840, when official statistics began to provide complete coverage of all German states. The creation of estimates of population size and of annual series of the crude birth, marriage and death rates rests on three types of sources: First, pairs of partial censuses of hearths, taxpayers, communicants, etc. for the same regional aggregate at two different points in time are used to derive annual growth rates of popula-tion. This information is used to derive approximate estimates of total population size in ten-year intervals. Second, to develop aggregate series of vital events the project aims to analyse approximately 450 to 600 parish registers. Third, the project makes use of proto-statistical material on population size and the number of vital events that states began to collect selectively from c. 1740. On the basis of material from Gehrmann (2000), from published studies on c. 140 parishes and from selected other sources we construct a pre-liminary dataset for the period 1730–1840. Our cumulative rates of natural increase are broadly consistent with independent estimates of population growth. We use these series for two explorative analyses: First, on the basis of inverse projection we generate tentative estimates of the gross reproduction rate, of life expectancy and the dependency ratio. The results suggest an increase of the life expectancy and of the dependency ratio, the latter being the result of persistent population growth. Second, by adding a real wage series we study Malthusian adaptation with two methods, namely, VAR and time varying cumulated lag regression. The results consistently suggest the presence of both the preventive and the positive check during the eighteenth century. Whereas the preventive check persisted into the nineteenth century, mortality became exogenous in the early nineteenth century. Par-ticularly the 1810s turn out as a period of major change in at least three dimensions: real wages increased, life expectancies rose, and the positive check disappeared. Thus, Germany became a non-Malthusian economy well before the advent of industrialisation. Additional information suggests that market integration was a driving force behind this process.

Suggested Citation

  • Ulrich Pfister & Georg Fertig, 2010. "The population history of Germany: research strategy and preliminary results," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2010-035, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:dem:wpaper:wp-2010-035
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin Uebele & Daniel Gallardo-Albarrán, 2015. "Paving the way to modernity: Prussian roads and grain market integration in Westphalia, 1821-1855," Scandinavian Economic History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(1), pages 69-92, March.
    2. Uebele, Martin & Pfister, Ulrich & Riedel, Jana, 2012. "Real wages and the origins of modern economic growth in Germany, 16th to 19th centuries," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 62076, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    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. Edvinsson, Rodney, 2015. "Pre-industrial population and economic growth: Was there a Malthusian mechanism in Sweden?," Stockholm Papers in Economic History 17, Stockholm University, Department of Economic History.
    5. Kopsidis, Michael & Bromley, Daniel W., 2014. "The French Revolution and German industrialization: The new institutional economics rewrites history," IAMO Discussion Papers 149, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO).
    6. Alan Fernihough, 2013. "Malthusian Dynamics in a Diverging Europe: Northern Italy, 1650–1881," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(1), pages 311-332, February.
    7. repec:spr:cliomt:v:11:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11698-016-0144-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Michael Kopsidis & Ulrich Pfister, 2013. "Agricultural development during early industrialization in a low-wage economy: Saxony, c. 1790-1830," Working Papers 0039, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Germany; history; population;

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General

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