Location: 368A Heady Hall
Description: Timothy Guinnane
Abstract: Several strands of the theory of economic growth stress the importance of demographic behavior in the transition to modern economic growth. Prior to the fertility transition of the 19th century, most of western Europe experienced comparatively low fertility because adults delayed marriage until long after sexual maturity, and many adults never married at all. This “prudential restraint” forms the centerpiece of Malthusian models. Economic historians who have studied this Western European Marriage Pattern in England and elsewhere think of the delayed marriage as voluntary. Malthusian models typically assume a flexible labor market in which population size affects the real wage and thus the decision to marry.
This paper, which is part of an ongoing project, studies the regulation of marriage in southwest Germany (Württemberg) over the period 1550-1914. These communities had strong guilds that regulated access to occupations, and strong communities that determined for many citizens whether they could marry or even remain in the community. We have micro-level data on about 34 thousand individuals born in three communities, in addition to aggregate data on another thirty-some villages. While among the wealthiest parts of Germany today, Württemberg and the rest of south-western Germany experienced long periods of economic stagnation, beginning to grow only in the second half of the 19th century. We find strong evidence for the regulation of marriage, but the form is different: the Malthusian “preventive check” was stronger in Württemberg than in England, France, or the Low Countries, but who married depended less on individual decisions and more on the regulatory framework implied by the guilds and the community.
Contact Person: Juan Carlos Cordoba