This article shows that the interaction between economic and demographic variables in England before the onset of modern economic growth did not fit some crucial assumptions of the Malthusian model. I estimated a vector autoregression for data on fertility, mortality and real wages over the period 1541–1840 applying a well-known identification strategy broadly used in macroeconomics. The results show that endogenous adjustment of population to real wages functioned as Malthus assumed only until the seventeenth century: positive checks disappeared during the seventeenth century and preventive checks disappeared before 1740. This implies that the endogenous adjustment of population levels to changes in real wages — one of the cornerstones of the Malthusian model — did not work during an important part of the period usually considered within the ‘Malthusian regime’.

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