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

Francesco Cinnirella (), Marc Klemp () and Jacob Weisdorf

No 9116, CEPR Discussion Papers from C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers

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 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J11 J13 N33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dem, nep-evo and nep-his
Date: 2012-09
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Working Paper: Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England (2013) Downloads
Working Paper: Malthus in the Bedroom: Birth Spacing as a Preventive Check Mechanism in Pre-Modern England (2012) Downloads
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