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The Malthusian Intermezzo - Women’s wages and human capital formation between the Late Middle Ages and the Demographic Transition of the 19th century

Author

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  • Jan Luiten van Zanden

Abstract

Why did the European Marriage Pattern that emerged in the North-Sea region in the late Medieval Period not result in a continuous shift from ‘quantity’ to ‘quality’? This paper addresses this question focusing on the changing labour market position of women in England between 1500 and 1800. It is demonstrated that the gender wage gap increased strongly in this period; wages of women working in agriculture fell from about 80% to 40% of the wages of an unskilled labourer. This was probably the result of a decline in the demand for female labour in this period due to changes in the structure of agriculture, and was possibly also related from the movement from a labour scarcity economy in the 15th century to a labour surplus economy in 18th and early 19th century. This decline in female labour participation and in particular in the relative wages earned by women had important consequences for demographic behaviour and investment in human capital of children. It helps to explain the ‘baby boom’ of the second half of the 18th century, and the stagnation in human capital formation that occurred at the same time – in short, it contributes to the understanding of the ‘Malthusian intermezzo’ of this period.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2011. "The Malthusian Intermezzo - Women’s wages and human capital formation between the Late Middle Ages and the Demographic Transition of the 19th century," Working Papers 0014, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucg:wpaper:0014
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    File URL: http://www.cgeh.nl/sites/default/files/WorkingPapers/CGEH.WP_.No14.vanZanden.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Burnette,Joyce, 2008. "Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521880633, March.
    2. Donald Woodward, 1980. "The Background to the Statute of Artificers: The Genesis of Labour Policy, 1558–63," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 33(1), pages 32-44, February.
    3. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
    4. Ambrus, Attila & Field, Erica, 2008. "Early Marriage, Age of Menarche, and Female Schooling Attainment in Bangladesh," Scholarly Articles 3200264, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    5. Ogilvie, Sheilagh, 2003. "A Bitter Living: Women, Markets, and Social Capital in Early Modern Germany," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198205548.
    6. Broadberry, Stephen; Campbell, Bruce; Klein, Alexander; Overton, Mark; Van Leeuwen, Bas., 2010. "English Economic Growth: 1270 - 1870," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 35, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    7. Gregory Clark, 2001. "The Long March of History: Farm Laborers Wages in England 1208-1850," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625018000000000238, David K. Levine.
    8. Robert C. Allen, 2003. "Progress and poverty in early modern Europe," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 56(3), pages 403-443, August.
    9. Humphries, Jane, 1990. "Enclosures, Common Rights, and Women: The Proletarianization of Families in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(01), pages 17-42, March.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. repec:spr:cliomt:v:12:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11698-016-0156-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Maya Shatzmiller, 2015. "An early knowledge economy: the adoption of paper, human capital and economic change in the medieval Islamic Middle East, 700-1300 AD," Working Papers 0064, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    4. repec:afc:cliome:v:12:y:2018:i:1:p:99-126 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Gary, Kathryn, 2017. "Constructing equality? : Women’s wages for physical labor, 1550-1759," Lund Papers in Economic History 158, Lund University, Department of Economic History.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Demographic change; European Marriage Pattern; Female wage gap; Female labour participation;

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