DP11232 The Child Quality-Quantity Tradeoff, England, 1780-1880: A Fundamental Component of the Economic Theory of Growth is Missing

Author(s): Gregory Clark, Neil Cummins
Publication Date: April 2016
Keyword(s): Economic Growth, Human Capital, Quality-Quantity Tradeoff
JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11232

In recent theorizing, modern economic growth was created by substituting child quality for quantity. However evidence for this tradeoff is minimal. In England the Industrial Revolution occurred in a period 1780-1879 of substantial human capital investment, but no fertility control, huge random variation in family sizes, and uncorrelated family size and parent quality. Yet family size variation had little effect on educational attainment, occupational status, or longevity, for both prosperous and poor families. More children reduced inherited wealth, but even that effect largely disappeared by the next generation. There is no quality-quantity tradeoff. Growth theory must proceed in other directions.