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Late marriage as a contributor to the Industrial Revolution in England

Foreman-Peck, James ORCID: and Zhou, Peng ORCID: 2018. Late marriage as a contributor to the Industrial Revolution in England. Economic History Review 71 (4) , pp. 1073-1099. 10.1111/ehr.12651

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Was the European Marriage Pattern an important contributor to England’s precocious economic development? We examine this question by embedding the possibility in a historically substantiated demographic-economic model, supported by both cross-section and long time series evidence. Persistent high mortality and powerful mortality shocks in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries lowered life expectations. Subsequently increased life expectancy reduced the number of births necessary to achieve a given family size. Fewer births were achieved by a higher age at first marriage of females. Later marriage not only constrained population growth but also provided greater opportunities for female informal learning, especially through ‘service’. In a period when the family was the principal institution for socialising future workers, such learning was a significant contributor to the intergenerational transmission and accumulation of human capital. Our paper shows how, over the centuries, the gradual induced rise of human capital raised productivity and eventually brought about the Industrial Revolution. Without the contribution of late marriage to human capital accumulation broadly interpreted, real wages in England would not have risen strongly in the early nineteenth century and would have been about half the level actually achieved.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0013-0117
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 15 August 2017
Date of Acceptance: 25 July 2017
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 16:56

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