Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England

41 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2012

See all articles by Francesco Cinnirella

Francesco Cinnirella

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CAGE

Marc Klemp

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Jacob Louis Weisdorf

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 26, 2012

Abstract

We question the received wisdom that birth limitation was absent among historical populations before the fertility transition of the late nineteenth-century. Using duration and panel models on family-level data, we find a causal, negative short-run effect of living standards on birth spacing in the three centuries preceding England’s fertility transition. While the effect could be driven by biology in the case of the poor, a significant effect among the rich suggests that spacing worked as a control mechanism in pre-modern England. Our findings support the Malthusian preventive check hypothesis and rationalize England’s historical leadership as a low population-pressure, high-wage economy.

Keywords: spacing, birth intervals, fertility, limitation, natural fertility, preventive check

JEL Classification: J110, J130, N330

Suggested Citation

Cinnirella, Francesco and Klemp, Marc and Weisdorf, Jacob Louis, Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England (September 26, 2012). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 3936. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2152263

Francesco Cinnirella (Contact Author)

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

DK-5230 Odense
Denmark

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute ( email )

Poschingerstrasse 5
Munich, 81679
Germany

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

CAGE ( email )

Premier Business Centre
47-49 Park Royal Road
London, NW10 7LQ
United Kingdom

Marc Klemp

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

Jacob Louis Weisdorf

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

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