Marc Klemp, University of Copenhagen

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

Abstract

This paper casts doubt on the widespread belief that pre-transition England was a natural fertility society without conscious marital fertility limitation. Using duration analysis on family reconstitution data from 26 parishes, we explore the response of birth intervals to changes in living standards measured by real wages. We also use monthly temperatures to identify exogenous variation in real wages using a panel setting with family-fixed effects. We find strong evidence that real wages negatively affect birth intervals from 1540-1800, but positively afterwards. Further evidence against a natural fertility society comes from the finding that child mortality substantially reduces spacing behavior.