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

43 Pages Posted: 28 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 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 individual data, we find a causal negative 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: Birth intervals, Fertility limitation, Natural fertility, Preventive check, Spacing

JEL Classification: J11, J13, N33

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 2012). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP9116. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2153557

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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