How the West 'Invented' Fertility Restriction
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
University of Zurich - UBS International Center of Economics in Society; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
July 20, 2012
American Economic Review, Forthcoming
Europeans restricted their fertility long before the Demographic Transition. By raising the marriage age of women and ensuring that a substantial proportion remained celibate, the "European Marriage Pattern" (EMP) reduced childbirths by up to one third between the 14th and 18th century. In a Malthusian environment, this translated into lower population pressure, raising average wages significantly, which in turn facilitated industrialization. We analyze the rise of this first socio-economic institution in history that limited fertility through delayed marriage. Our model emphasizes changes in agricultural production following the Black Death in 1348-50. The land-intensive production of pastoral products increased in relative importance. Using detailed data from England after 1290, we show that women had a comparative advantage in livestock farming. They often worked as servants in husbandry, where they remained unmarried until their mid-twenties. Where pastoral agriculture dominated, marriage occurred markedly later. Overall, we estimate that pastoral farming raised female age at first marriage by more than 4 years.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 40
Keywords: European fertility pattern, fertility decline, Malthus, demography
JEL Classification: J22, N33
Date posted: December 21, 2008 ; Last revised: July 20, 2013
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