Abstract

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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