NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

How the West 'Invented' Fertility Restriction

Nico Voigtländer, Hans-Joachim Voth

NBER Working Paper No. 17314
Issued in August 2011, Revised in August 2012
NBER Program(s):   DAE   POL

Europeans restricted their fertility long before the Demographic Transition. By raising the marriage age of women and ensuring that a substantial proportion remained celibate, the "European Marriage Pattern" (EMP) reduced childbirths by up to one third between the 14th and 18th century. In a Malthusian environment, this translated into lower population pressure, raising average wages significantly, which in turn facilitated industrialization. We analyze the rise of this first socio-economic institution in history that limited fertility through delayed marriage. Our model emphasizes changes in agricultural production following the Black Death in 1348-50. The land-intensive production of pastoral products increased in relative importance. Using detailed data from England after 1290, we show that women had a comparative advantage in livestock farming. They often worked as servants in husbandry, where they remained unmarried until their mid-twenties. Where pastoral agriculture dominated, marriage occurred markedly later. Overall, we estimate that pastoral farming raised female age at first marriage by more than 4 years.

download in pdf format
   (988 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17314

Published: Nico Voigtl?nder & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "How the West "Invented" Fertility Restriction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2227-64, October. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Young w10991 The Gift of the Dying: The Tragedy of AIDS and the Welfare of Future African Generations
Alesina, Giuliano, and Nunn w17098 On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough
Ashraf and Galor w17037 Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch
Becker An Economic Analysis of Fertility
Bordo, Redish, and Rockoff w17312 Why didn't Canada have a banking crisis in 2008 (or in 1930, or 1907, or ...)?
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us