MEHR Seminar: Niels Framroze Møller, University of Copenhagen, 'Was the Poor Periphery more Malthusian than England? Evidence from Pre-industrial Scandinavia'

Abstract: We consider whether evidence from the poor periphery of Europe, namely Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, displayed similar ‘Malthusian' characteristics to England. We follow the approach adopted by Møller and Sharp (2008) in interpreting the Malthusian theory as a Cointegrated Vector-Auto-Regressive (VAR) model in population and labor demand, and a stationary VAR model in real income, birth rates, and death rates. We find that stationarity is also rejected by the Scandinavian pre-industrial (i.e. until the late 1800s) data than it was for the English data. As before, we interpret this non-stationarity as the result of (destabilizing) Boserupian or Smithian effects in the form of population-driven technology offsetting the (stabilizing) marginal productivity effect. We thus impose this result and therefore a unit root in order to estimate the model in a way which gives statistical advantages, but still allows us to look for the Malthusian check mechanisms. As in the case of England, we find significant preventive checks, but in these data we also find some stronger evidence of positive checks. Since the Scandinavian countries are well-known for having high quality demographic data, it seems increasing confidence can be put in the generality of these results as a relevant description of the pre-industrial economic experience.