DP11752 'Decessit sine prole' - Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England

Author(s): David de la Croix, Eric Schneider, Jacob Weisdorf
Publication Date: January 2017
Keyword(s): European Marriage Pattern, Evolutionary Advantage, Fertility, industrial revolution, Marriage, Middle class
JEL(s): J12, J13, N33
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11752

Previous work has shown that England's pre-industrial elites had more surviving offspring than their lower-class counterparts. This evidence was used to argue that the spread of upper-class values via downward social mobility helped England grow rich. We contest this view, showing that the lower classes outperformed the rich in terms of reproduction once singleness and childlessness are accounted for. Indeed, Merchants, Professionals and Gentry married less, and their marriages were more often childless. Many died without descendants (decessit sine prole). We also establish that the most prosperous socio-economic group in terms of reproduction was the middle class, which we argue was instrumental to England's economic success because most of its new industrialists originated from middle-class families.