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Malthus to Modernity: England’s First Fertility Transition, 1760-1800


  • Clark, Gregory
  • Cummins, Neil


English fertility history is generally regarded as having been composed of two re-gimes: an era of unregulated marital fertility, from at least 1540 to 1890, then the modern era, with regulated marital fertility, lower for higher social classes. We show there were in fact three fertility regimes in England: a Malthusian regime which lasted from at least 1500 until 1780, where fertility was substantially higher for the rich, an intermediate regime from 1780 to 1890 with fertility undifferentiated by class, and finally the modern regime. Wealthy English men produced substantially fewer children within a generation of the onset of the Industrial Revolution, over 100 years before the classic demographic transition. At the same time the fertility of the poor increased. Determining what triggered this change, however, and why it coincided with the Industrial Revolution, will require further research.

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  • Clark, Gregory & Cummins, Neil, 2010. "Malthus to Modernity: England’s First Fertility Transition, 1760-1800," MPRA Paper 25465, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:25465

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    Cited by:

    1. Clark, Gregory, 2010. "The Consumer Revolution: Turning Point in Human History, or Statistical Artifact?," MPRA Paper 25467, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Franziska Tollnek & Joerg Baten, 2012. "Farmer Families at the Heart of the Educational Revolution: Which Occupational Group Inherited Human Capital in the Early Modern Era?," Working Papers 0033, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    3. Ragchaasuren Galindev, 2011. "Leisure goods, education attainment and fertility choice," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 157-181, June.
    4. Collins, Jason & Baer, Boris & Weber, Ernst Juerg, 2014. "Economic Growth And Evolution: Parental Preference For Quality And Quantity Of Offspring," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(08), pages 1773-1796, December.
    5. 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.
    6. Clark, Gregory, 2014. "The Industrial Revolution," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 5, pages 217-262 Elsevier.
    7. Jason Collins & Oliver Richards, 2013. "Evolution, Fertility and the Ageing Population," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 13-02, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    8. Masako Kimura & Daishin Yasui, 2012. "Public Policy and the Income-Fertility Relationship in Economic Development," KIER Working Papers 834, Kyoto University, Institute of Economic Research.
    9. Gregory Clark, 2012. "The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850 : Review Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(1), pages 85-95, March.
    10. repec:pri:rpdevs:vogl_family_size is not listed on IDEAS
    11. 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.
    12. Tom Vogl, 2013. "Differential Fertility, Human Capital, and Development," Working Papers 1452, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
    13. Clark, Gregory & Cummins, Neil, 2013. "Surnames and social mobility: England 1230-2012," Economic History Working Papers 54515, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    14. Geoffrey Brennan & Gordon Menzies & Michael Munger, 2014. "A Brief History of Equality," Working Paper Series 17, Economics Discipline Group, UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney.

    More about this item


    Demographic Transition in England;

    JEL classification:

    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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