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Population and poverty in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine

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  • Fernihough, Alan
  • Ó Gráda, Cormac

Abstract

The link between demographic pressure and economic conditions in pre-Famine Ireland has long interested economists. This paper re-visits the topic, harnessing the highly disaggregated parish-level data from the 1841 Census of Ireland. Using population per value adjusted acre as a measure of population pressure, our results indicate that on the eve of the Great Famine of 1846{50, population pressure was positively associated with both illiteracy rates and the prevalence of poor quality housing. But while our analysis shows that population pressure was one of the primary factors underpinning pre-Famine poverty, it also highlights the importance of geography and human agency. A counterfactual computation indicates that had Ireland's population stayed at its 1800 level, this would have led to only modest improvements in literacy and housing.

Suggested Citation

  • Fernihough, Alan & Ó Gráda, Cormac, 2018. "Population and poverty in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2018-13, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:qucehw:201813
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2015. "Why Ireland Starved after Three Decades: The Great Famine in Cross-Section Reconsidered," Working Papers 201510, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    2. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2003-2041, August.
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    5. 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.
    6. Weir, David R., 1984. "Life Under Pressure: France and England, 1670–1870," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(1), pages 27-47, March.
    7. Marijke Verpoorten, 2012. "Leave none to claim the land," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(4), pages 547-563, July.
    8. Goodspeed, Tyler Beck, 2016. "Microcredit and adjustment to environmental shock: Evidence from the Great Famine in Ireland," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 258-277.
    9. Fernihough, Alan & Ó Gráda, Cormac & Walsh, Brendan M., 2015. "Intermarriage in a divided society: Ireland a century ago," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 1-14.
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    16. Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2014. "Living standards and mortality since the middle ages," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(2), pages 358-381, May.
    17. Simone A. Wegge & Tyler Anbinder & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2017. "Immigrants and savers: A rich new database on the Irish in 1850s New York," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(3), pages 144-155, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2018. "The Next World and the New World: Relief, Migration, and the Great Irish Famine," Working Papers 201821, School of Economics, University College Dublin.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Famine; Malthus; Population; Ireland;

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • B30 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - General
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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