Malthusian regime: Introduction 3

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Figure 1 shows the growth rate of total output in Western Europe between the years 500 and 1990, as well as the breakdown between growth of output per capita and growth of population. The figure demonstrates that the process of emergence from the Malthusian trap was a slow one. The growth rate of total output in Europe was 0.3 percent per year between 1500 and 1700, and 0.6 percent per year between 1700 and 1820. In both periods, two-thirds of the increase in total output was matched by increased population growth, so that the growth of income per capita was only 0.1 percent per year in the earlier period and 0.2 percent per year in the later one. In the United Kingdom, where growth was the fastest, the same rough division between total output growth and population growth can be observed: Total output grew at an annual rate of 1.1 percent in the 120 years after 1700, while population grew at an annual rate of 0.7 percent.

Thus the initial effect of faster income growth in Europe was to increase population. Income per capita rose much more slowly than did total output. And as income per capita rose, population grew ever more quickly. Only the fact that output growth accelerated allowed income per capita to continue rising. During this Post-Malthusian Regime, the Malthusian mechanism linking higher income to higher population growth continued to function, but the effect of higher population on diluting resources per capita, and thus lowering income per capita, was counteracted by technological progress, which allowed income to keep rising.

Both population and income per capita continued to grow after 1820, but increasingly the growth of total output was expressed as growth of income per capita. Indeed, while the rate of total output growth increased, the rate of growth of population peaked in the 19th century and then began to fall. Population growth was 40 percent as large as total output growth over the period 1820-1870, but only 20 percent as large as total output growth over the period 1929- 1990. Over the next several decades much of Western Europe is forecast to have negative population growth.

The dynamics of population growth reflected both changes in constraints and qualitative changes in household behavior induced by the economic environment. The Malthusian demographic regime had been characterized by high levels of both fertility and mortality. As living standards rose, mortality fell. Between the 1740s and the 1840s, life expectancy at birth rose from 33 to 40 in England and from 25 to 40 in France (Livi-Bacci, 1997). Fogel (1997) estimates that 85 percent of the decline in mortality in France between 1785 and 1870 was due simply to better nutrition. Mortality reductions led to growth of the population both because more children reached breeding age and because each person lived for a larger number of years. The initial effect of higher income was also to raise fertility directly, primarily by raising the propensity to marry. Fertility rates increased in most of Western Europe until the second half of the nineteenth century, peaking in England and Wales in 1871 and in Germany in 1875.

Thus, in Malthusian terms, the positive check was being weakened and the preventive check was being less assiduously enforced. But as income continued to rise, population growth fell further below the maximum rate that could be sustained given the mortality regime. The reduction in fertility was at its most rapid in Europe around the turn of the century. In England, for example, live births per 1000 women aged 15-44 fell from 153.6 in 1871-80 to 109.0 in 1901-10.5 easy payday loans

The reversal of the Malthusian relation between income and population growth corresponded to an increase in the level of resources invested in each child. For example, the average number of years of schooling in England and Wales rose from 2.3 for the cohort born between 1801 and 1805 to 5.2 for the cohort born 1852-56 and 9.1 for the cohort born 1897-1906.