Late Marriage as a Contributor to the Industrial Revolution in England

27 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2018

See all articles by James Foreman‐Peck

James Foreman‐Peck

Cardiff University

Peng Zhou

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School; Cardiff Metropolitan University

Date Written: November 2018

Abstract

Was the European marriage pattern an important contributor to England's precocious economic development? This article examines this question by embedding the possibility in a historically substantiated demographic‐economic model, supported by both cross‐section and long time series evidence. Persistent high mortality and powerful mortality shocks in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries lowered life expectations. Subsequently increased life expectancy reduced the number of births necessary to achieve a given family size. Fewer births were achieved by a higher age at first marriage of females. Later marriage not only constrained population growth but also provided greater opportunities for female informal learning, especially through ‘service’. In a period when the family was the principal institution for socializing future workers, such learning was a significant contributor to the intergenerational transmission and accumulation of human capital. This article shows how, over the centuries, the gradual induced rise of human capital raised productivity and eventually brought about the industrial revolution. Without the contribution of late marriage to human capital accumulation broadly interpreted, real wages in England would not have increased strongly in the early nineteenth century and would have been much lower than actually achieved for several centuries.

Suggested Citation

Foreman-Peck, James and Zhou, Peng, Late Marriage as a Contributor to the Industrial Revolution in England (November 2018). The Economic History Review, Vol. 71, Issue 4, pp. 1073-1099, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3264254 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ehr.12651

James Foreman-Peck (Contact Author)

Cardiff University ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, CF10 3EU
United Kingdom

Peng Zhou

Cardiff University - Cardiff Business School ( email )

Aberconway Building
Colum Drive
Cardiff, CF10 3EU
United Kingdom

Cardiff Metropolitan University ( email )

Western Avenue
Cardiff, CF5 2YB
United Kingdom

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